East St. John senior recruits commit

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Ashlee Cooper signs with Baylor volleyball, Leslie Forest going to Centenary basketball


Sports Editor

RESERVE– A pair of Lady Cat seniors are set to take it to the next level after signing letters of intent this week as 6’5” Ashlee Cooper and 6’3” Leslie Forest made their commitments to Baylor volleyball and Centenary basketball, respectively.

And their ESJ coaches say that the loss of these two athletic giants sure does leave some big shoes to fill next season.

&#8220I don’t think there really is a way that you can replace a player like that,” said volleyball coach Sandi Stein. &#8220We can just try to find people who can fill their roles and share that load and hope for the best.”

The duo has already made their mark on East St. John athletics with a laundry list of game and career records. Cooper, the all-time leader in blocks and kills at ESJ, has anchored a volleyball team that went undefeated in district this season, and is currently vying for a chance at the state championship game after making it through the regionals Wednesday. Forest, who holds the single game record in basketball at ESJ for blocked shots with ten, defended the paint for the Lady Cats in a difficult year last season but has compiled a 63-19 record with ESJ in her career.

Forest Life

A LaPlace native, Leslie Forest attended East St. John Elementary and the Glade Junior High, but said that she didn’t really take up basketball until high school when she met Coach Troy Giordano.

&#8220As soon as I met her I thought, ‘we need to get this girl on the court,’” said Giordano. &#8220And she’s come such a long way in a short time. She’s definitely the most improved player that I’ve seen since I got here.”

As a junior, Forest developed into a steady contributor at the center position on a Lady Cat team that went 34-4 on their way to the Class 5A district title. This season, which tips off today at the Hammond Jamboree, the squad faces the challenge of replacing two graduated seniors from last season. But Forest seemed optimistic about the season, saying that she’s ready to go for the first game after breaking her right index finger in practice just more than a month ago.

The youngest of four children, Forest has maintained a 4.0 GPA at East St. John and has been a member of the Beta Club, Interact, and plays the saxophone in the school band. She said she plans to take up pre-law with her full-paid scholarship to Centenary College and added that she looks forward to getting into the college life.

&#8220Oh yeah I’m excited. Their dorms look nice – all big and comfortableŠ. And I met [Assistant Coach] Rebekah Montz when she came down to recruit. She’s really down to earth.”

Forest is the daughter of Tamela and Kenneth Forest, who met when they themselves were students at East St. John in the very same gym that Leslie now plays. They said that as their youngest child, Leslie’s graduation and move up-state to Shreveport kind of snuck up on them.

&#8220I guess it came sooner than we had expected. We’ll just have to keep on doing what we’re doing,” her mother said about they’re newly teenager-less house. She added that she expected that Leslie would do well in college and would continue to progress as an athlete.

&#8220Leslie is a very focused young lady. She will do fine.”

Coopers’ town

On the day that she signed her letter of intent with Baylor University, Ashlee Cooper dyed her hair green to represent the Bears signature color.

&#8220I’m gonna paint the town green-and-gold,” she said.

But she’ll have to wait until she’s finished playing with East St. John’s black-and-gold first, which is still in contention for the 5A state championship after advancing past Archbishop Chapelle Wednesday.

As the second-of-six children, Cooper moved from New Orleans to LaPlace about six years ago and hadn’t even considered playing volleyball until she started high school at ESJ.

&#8220Coming in, I didn’t even know there was such a sport,” she said. &#8220But now I’m lovin’ it.”

But after getting involved, Cooper became an emotional leader for the team. She said that she looks forward to going far in this postseason and is ready for college life just around the corner.

&#8220This season was tough from the start with all the disruption, but we could go undefeated thruough the playoffs. But after that, oh yeah – I’m ready to go. I met the team from Baylor and they all seemed really cool. I look forward to bigger and better things.”

Coopers mother agreed.

&#8220Centenary was my first choice too,” she said. &#8220It’s a great school. And Ashlee’s gonna do well there.”

The record leader in kills and blocks at ESJ, Ashlee offered her thanks to Coach Stein for guidance and confidence.

&#8220I wouldn’t be going to college if it hadn’t been for Coach Stein. She got me to where I am today. I just can’t thank her enough.

Coach Stein returned the sentiments.

&#8220What can I say? She’s like my very own child. We’re gonna miss her, but we couldn’t be prouder.”