The last time New Iberia’s soccer team was in action they polished off a perfect run to the Gold Division championship in the Louisiana Soccer Showcase in Lake Charles.
Since then Mother Nature has managed to accomplish something none of New Iberia’s previous opponents have done — stopped the Yellow Jackets in their boots.
New Iberia (10-0) returns to play for the first time in nearly three weeks with a trip to Denham Springs (12-5-4) in a matchup of two of the state’s top Division I teams at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“That’s my worry right now, the long break,” New Iberia soccer coach Fafadji Acouetey said. “We’ve worked on that it in practice and tried to get their minds back to the game. Hopefully we’ll be get out there and get it back.”
The lengthy span in between games wasn’t by design.
New Iberia, rated seventh in the LHSAA’s unofficial power ratings, was scheduled to face Beau Chene two days after the Louisiana Showcase event, but that game was cancelled because rain.
The Yellow Jackets endured the same fate when St. Michael of the Archangel’s Holiday Cup was canceled because of wet fields.
For a team in the midst of its best start in Acouetey’s third season it’s been hardly the best-case scenario, especially with a sturdy challenge from Denham Springs — No. 4 in the power ratings — followed by the start of district play next week.
However, the Yellow Jackets have trained when possible and worked to correct any flaws that may have been detected during their unblemished start.
“I know Saturday will be a tough game for us,” Acouetey said. “We’ll go one game at a time. If we have to fix somethings after this weekend, we’ll get them fixed.”
Although his team’s undefeated Acouetey suggested they’ve been far from perfect, even though New Iberia’s outscored its opposition 34-3.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “During the Louisiana Showcase, we were well organized on the field, and that’s the key. I’ve always asked our players to be organized, and then we can do the things we want to. We won it all, and that was a great thing.”
Acouetey said for a team with aspirations of winning the Division I, District 2 championship and making a deep postseason run, the Louisiana Showcase crown may have been more beneficial psychologically than physically standing up to four formidable foes.
“We played against some tough teams,” said Acouetey, whose team registered three shutouts in four games. “Now they believe we can do something good.”
New Iberia features a senior-laden team (14 total) motivated by its past failures. The Yellow Jackets have been eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs the past two years, including last season’s heart-wrenching 2-1 loss to Northshore in the final minute.
Sophomore forward Fernando Canales (eight goals) is the team’s leading scorer followed by senior wing/midfielder Brandon Dewey (seven goals), sophomore center-mid Luis Sanchez (four goals, three assists), senior center-midfielder Trace Gary (three goals, four assists) and junior forward Tucker Gibbs (three goals, four assists).
Five straight shutouts to start the season are just part of senior goalkeeper Cy Kipps’s impressive résumé. The three-year starter, who relies on the all-senior back line of Kaleb Leon, Alex Glover, Brett Pichoff and Aaron Comeaux, has made 31 saves in 10 games with eight shutouts and one goal allowed.
“I’m very proud to be 10-0 right now,” Acouetey said. “Now there’s a belief, and that’s what I wanted to create. We’re looking forward to each game to see how we’ll do.”