Lutcher run ends at Vandebilt

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2013



HOUMA — Boasting a powerful soccer program with a rich tradition, Vandebilt Catholic stands in a place where Lutcher aspires to be.

The Bulldogs are getting there fast, faster than anyone could have imagined when the Lutcher soccer program started just three years ago. But on Friday, the Terriers held their ground, advancing to their third consecutive Division II state championship game behind a slew of first half goals, besting Lutcher 7-1 in a semifinal game at Vandebilt Catholic’s Buddy Marcello Stadium.

Vandebilt Catholic (26-2-1) has eliminated Lutcher from the postseason in three consecutive years, each time a round later than before. In 2012, it was in the quarterfinals, and in 2011, the regional.

“I’m thrilled with the season we had,” said Lutcher coach Neta Bourgeois. “These girls fought and fought and fought. Give it to Vandebilt … they’re an excellent team. We kept going and fought like it was 0-0 all the way through.”

Makelle Pena and Kimberly Grasso each scored three goals to lead the Terriers, who marched out to a 4-1 lead at halftime.

“It’s a great experience,” said Pena. “We’ve been playing together, many of us, for six years, seven years … Now, we’ve just gotta go in there and bring everything we have to try and finish it with a championship.”

Grasso scored an early goal to give Vandebilt a 1-0 lead, but Lutcher answered quickly. Abigail Lubrano crossed a ball perfectly to Kassidy Zeringue, who scored after Vandebilt goalkeeper Marianne Clark dove to stop the ball. Zeringue maintained possession and put it in the net to tie the game with 29:30 left in the first half.

“That was sheer exhilaration,” said Bourgeois of the Bulldogs’ sideline after the goal. “That was a big answer for us and a proud moment.”

Vandebilt asserted control of the ball and attempted to strike back. Lutcher goalkeeper Maddie Martin made a pair of impressive saves off of a free kick by Pena, diving for the second to stop a shot off of a rebound. Then with 22:45 left, Lutcher defender Courtney Michel made a stop when Grace Champagne had an opening for a shot.

But Vandy eventually broke through via a short shot by Pena, who received the ball just in front of the net off of a cross by Champagne and put it in the right corner of the net to make it 2-1.

“We kept pounding and pounding at them with no success,” said Pena. “So to get that one and go back on top, it was a lift.”

Less than four minutes later, Pena extended the lead when she scored on a pretty header off of a throw in, making it 3-1.

Grasso scored with 6:50 left in the first half to make it 4-1.

“They equalized things early, but as the match went on I thought we eventually started to wear them down,” said Vandebilt Catholic coach Philip Amadee.

“We’ve kind of played like that all year. We score our goals in spurts.”

Vandebilt controlled the ball for most of the first half.

“I don’t think we can ask any more of our defense,” said Pena. “(Defender) Carly Ellender was a brick wall back there.”

Lutcher regrouped and controlled the ball in Terrier territory for much of the second half. But with the lead, Vandebilt Catholic could concentrate on defense and kept the Bulldogs from getting many clean looks.

Pena, Grasso and Champagne each scored second half goals, the final two coming in the final 3:15 of play.

The Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals a week earlier, besting Neville 1-0 on a Zeringue goal backed by a shutout.

Lutcher graduates just two seniors in Zeringue and Miranda Martin and will thus bring back the majority of its roster next season.

The loss of Zeringue, of course, will be felt — the senior Louisiana-Lafayette signee scored her 162nd career goal in the match and has been the on-field leader of Lutcher’s rapid rise to prominence.

“We asked her to write a word on the board to describe what she was willing to do to help our team. She put ‘anything’ up,” said Bourgeois. “She’s proven it, time and time again.

“For all her athleticism, and she is an amazing athlete, it’s truly her character that sets her apart. That’s what I’d love people to know about her.”

Despite the disappointment in the loss, Bourgeois was able to put her team’s accomplishments in perspective.

“On our first day of practice when we began this program, we had girls who didn’t know what the positions were called. Half of them had never touched a soccer ball,” she said. “Through hard work and determination, they’ve done what they have in the last three years.

“I couldn’t even tell you how much heart these girls have. We’ve seen it every day.”