There is a particular breed of coach that believes the challenges that come from playing against elite competition can only help a team’s development or its ascension to becoming a true title contender.
That is the mindset a handful of boys soccer coaches from the Acadiana area have, as Acadiana, Lafayette, St. Thomas More, Beau Chene and New Iberia will be competing in the Louisiana Showcase of Soccer in Lake Charles on Friday and Saturday.
“The reason we play in tournaments like this is the competition,” STM coach Casey Friend said. “That tournament is also economically sound for us. We get to play all these quality teams on one trip. Normally, you would have to use one bus trip to play just one of those teams. The level of competition we get to face is fantastic.”
The event will feature 12 teams, with 11 of those hailing from Louisiana. In addition to the group of five from Acadiana, reigning LHSAA Division III state champion St. Louis, University Lab, Denham Springs, Bolton, Caddo Magnet, C.E. Byrd and Kelly Catholic of Beaumont, Texas, will also be participating.
All 11 state teams made the playoffs last season, with five of those advancing to the semifinals.
“Now that we have gone to the power rating system it is pretty imperative to get quality games,” Acadiana coach Jan Richard said. “You got to play quality opponents. It is a good opportunity for us to secure our current power ranking, and it may ever gives the opportunity to bump it up.”
Richard is looking for Acadiana (8-2-3) to play with a little more consistency. The Wrecking Rams, who lost six starters from last year’s state semifinal team, lost to Mandeville 5-0 on Saturday and tied Sulphur on Tuesday.
Acadiana faces Bolton at 4:45 p.m. and then Caddo Magnet at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
“I am hoping for some good results,” Richard said. “Right now we are Jekyll & Hyde. Some games we are unbelievable offensively and defensively, and then some games it’s like who is this team. We are still learning.”
Lafayette (4-2-2) is still looking to improve as well. The Mighty Lions enter the tournament having failed to win in their past three games, with two ties and a 1-0 loss to Denham Springs.
Lafayette faces Denham Springs at 3:30 p.m. and then C.E. Byrd at 6 p.m. Friday.
“I think we have improved since the start of the season, but we still have things to work on,” Lafayette coach Josh Vidrine said. “We really want to be clicking around January. Last few games we have tied, lost and tied. Were not quite where we want to be.”
Vidrine has had his team play in this tournament for close to a decade. The veteran coach said the two-day event has proved to be turning point for his program.
“I have always find it is a good tournament for us,” Vidrine said. “Usually around this tournament my team begins to click. My boys always look forward to it.”
Friend is hoping his team will come together this weekend as well. The Cougars lost 14 seniors off of last year’s team and last week got four players back from football.
STM faces Denham Springs at 6 p.m. and then takes on St. Louis at 8:30 p.m.
“I am looking for them to actually bond,” Friend said. “I want us to bond well and play well together. I think that will be a victory for us.”