Using last year’s loss in the Division I semifinals as motivation this season, don’t expect Acadiana soccer coach Jan Richard to coronate his team just yet.
There’s still plenty left to accomplish over the remaining 1½ months of the season, but if early indications are anything, expect the No. 2 Wrecking Rams to be in the thick of the state’s title chase.
“We’ve had a good run, but our motto is: ‘It’s not how you start, but how you finish,’ ” Richard said. “Everything looks fine and dandy right now and everyone’s praising us, but we still have to finish strong.”
Acadiana (14-1-2) responded to its lone loss of the season — a 2-0 defeat at Brother Martin on Nov. 22 — with 12 consecutive victories until ties with St. Michael the Archangel and Northlake Christian in the Louisiana Soccer Showcase in Lake Charles over the weekend.
Acadiana looks to start another streak with its next-to-last nondistrict game Tuesday against St. Thomas More (5-7-1) at Bill Dotson Stadium at 7 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to STM,” said Richard, whose team defeated the Cougars 4-1 on Nov. 18. “They’re going to be prepared and always give us a good battle.”
Acadiana returned seven starters off of last year’s state semifinalist team that fell to Grace King 4-2.
Among those starters are the heart of this year’s team — a group of seven seniors — who have the Rams ranked behind only defending state champion St. Paul’s and one of the favorites to win the District 3, Division I title along with archrival Lafayette.
“We were a little disappointed in our finish last year,” Richard said. “We hadn’t played that poorly in a long time and just chose a bad day to play that way. Hat’s off to Grace King. They did what they needed to do.”
One of the cornerstones this season has been Acadiana’s defense, which featured the return of its entire back line to serve as a buffer for sophomore goalkeeper Zac Elegamy.
The predominately senior unit of Devin Duhon, 6-foot-3 Aaron Clark, 6-1 Alex Caswell and 6-0 junior Dylan Casateneda has been a driving force in the Rams registering three shutouts.
Richard counts on senior midfielder Salvador Colin, along with senior strikers Kade Kling and Jordan Angelle, to provide Acadiana with a lightning-quick attack.
“This is one of the fastest teams I’ve coached as a whole, and that gives us some opportunities to exploit some of the teams we’ve faced,” Richard said.
Because of the success of its state championship football team, Acadiana has learned to play quality competition away from Dotson Stadium with nine games that will serve a veteran team well during district schedule that winds up with a Jan. 27 trip to Lafayette.
Part of Acadiana’s recent win streak was fueled by a 5-0 performance to win Carencro’s tournament, including a pair of 2-1 wins over No. 9 Denham Springs, to go along with road wins over Vandebilt Catholic (No. 4 Division II), New Iberia and Sulphur.
Acadiana opened last weekend’s tournament with a 3-0 win over Beaumont-Kelly before the impressive run was halted by consecutive 1-1 deadlocks against St. Michael (No. 5 Division II) and Northlake Christian (No. 1 Division III).
“People have wondered if we’ve peaked too early, and I don’t think so,” said Richard, whose team will host Brother Martin in a Jan. 3 rematch at 1 p.m. “At times we have played some of our best soccer, but we still have some room for improvement, and we can gradually start peaking come the middle of January for that February run.”