The most important part of a game for the St. Joseph Academy’s soccer team happens before the opening whistle ever blows.
Before each game, the Redstickers look to the sky for a flock of geese. If they see it, they know luck is on their side.
“When geese fly, they fly in a triangle and the head gets constantly switched out and the head takes the most wind,” senior Kennedy Achord said. “It’s all about teamwork because when the head gets tired, they rotate to the back and the new head takes his place.
“That really demonstrates our team. There isn’t one core leader that takes all of the work, it’s spread out and even.”
Geese are St. Joseph’s unofficial good luck charm this season with the team going undefeated in games when the waterfowl appear overhead.
But when there aren’t any geese nearby, the Redstickers still need their dose of pregame magic.
They have that covered, too.
First, there’s the team’s lucky red stick, a literal red baton each player must touch before every game. Then, there’s the “magic onion” Natalie Toups has kept in her bag since the season started in November.
If that doesn’t work, Achord rubs the McDonald’s Happy Meal toy coach Stephanie Broussard gave her freshman year before the player and coach both kiss the lucky coin Broussard keeps in her pocket for games.
“It’s like if someone were to get hurt,” Achord said of what would happen if the team didn’t follow its superstitions. “We just have to slip someone else in there and work twice as hard.”
It’s impossible to say if St. Joseph’s self-proclaimed quirks helped it win games this season, but something has gone right for the No. 4 team in Class 5A, despite having one of the state’s toughest schedules.
The Redstickers (10-4) have three wins over top-10 teams, including an upset of defending state champs and current No. 1 St. Scholastica. The loss was only the Doves’ second in as many years.
As for their four losses, three were against top 10 teams in 5A, while the other was against Division II’s top ranked Ben Franklin.
St. Joseph’s is also a perfect 3-0 in district play, outscoring opponents 25-1 so far. It hosts arguably its biggest rival and closest competitor for the District 3 title in Baton Rouge High at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“I was always expecting not to know what you’re going to get with this team,” said senior Courtney LeJeune, who eats a spoon of peanut butter before every game. “But now, every game everything is clicking. We really came together this year as a family.”
Broussard credited the team’s cohesion as a single unit and the leadership of its six seniors for its success this year.
In past seasons, the mostly inexperienced Redstickers would start slow — they started last season 2-5-2 — before catching a stride heading into the playoffs.
This time around, the challenge is maintaining the momentum they already have.
“I don’t know which one I would prefer,” Broussard said. “Sometimes when you get that quick start, do they settle in and keep that rhythm up or do they teeter off?
“… But I like the start we’ve had this year because we’ve had some bumps and bruises along the way, and they were able to learn from those experiences.”