Late U-High goal sinks Newman _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- University's Jessica Shelby battles Newman's Marguerite Walk for the ball in a 2015 game.

It’s been almost nine months since the University Lab girls soccer team hoisted the Division III state championship trophy and coach Mellisa Ramsey still can’t believe what the Cubs were able to accomplish last season.

U-High outscored opponents 88-7 on its way to the school’s first state title since 1998. Its 23 wins were a program record.

What was arguably even more impressive was the defense allowing only two goals in almost three months of soccer at the end of the season.

“That is something I do look back and go, ‘Wow, that is amazing. How did that even happen?’ ” Ramsey said of her team’s run at the end of the season. “I don’t expect that to ever happen again.”

It was an unbelievable run to the top of the state, but to Ramsey it couldn’t matter less.

The Cubs return almost all of their key pieces from the championship squad, losing only two starters. But Ramsey isn’t about to let the past dictate the team’s future.

“We never talk about the past. I’ve never mentioned it,” Ramsey said. “It’s an amazing accomplishment and these girls can talk about it when they graduate. That’s great. They can do it then, but right now, I’m just ready for the next game.”

The Cubs are out to another strong start this season with a 3-1-1 record through November, including two wins against Division I opponents. The only blemishes are a 2-0 loss to defending Division I runner-up Mt. Carmel and a 0-0 tie against St. Amant.

The defense picked up where it left off from its spectacular run last season with senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Bankhead anchoring the Cubs in goal.

The LSU soccer commitment is confident U-High will produce the same stout defense this year with it returning the majority of its center defense. Ramsey went as far as to say the Cubs will be strongest up the middle.

“We really don’t have any expectations for this year,” Bankhead said. “We kind of just go like we did last year, not expecting anything. We play it just like it’s our first game and take it step by step.”

The Cubs lost even less on offense, returning all three of their top scorers, including senior Jessica Shelby and junior Kate McKowen, who took home MVP honors in the state championship game.

Shelby paved the way for the U-High attack with 30 goals and is committed to Nicholls State for next year.

“It’s nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time (to defend a state championship),” Shelby said. “That feeling was irreplaceable, of winning a state championship with those girls who were on the team. And we lost some and we gained some, but the majority of the team is still that family.”

U-High will have a slightly different, if not more difficult, road to a championship defense this season. The Cubs have to get past last year’s Division II, District 5 co-champion St. Michael as part of the newly reformed Division III, District 4 — a result of the added Division IV during the offseason.

In Division I, defending District 5 champion St. Joseph’s makes the switch to District 3 where it’ll meet co-champs Denham Springs and Zachary.

Baton Rouge High also makes the jump to District 3 with the Redstickers but will be missing one of its best players in Natalie Presedo who was the Baton Rouge Metro area MVP last season.