Lining a fence at the St. Scholastica Academy soccer field in Covington are a dozen or so signs that remind opponents of how good the Doves have been in recent years.
So good, in fact, that they haven’t missed a Division I final since 2008 (and that year, they reached the semifinals). SSA has won three state championships since 2009, including last season’s title march.
The Doves are expected to make a strong push for a repeat in this year’s postseason, which for the second-seeded Doves will begin later this week when they host fellow District 6-I team Slidell in a bidistrict playoff.
Down the line could be a rematch against top-ranked Mt. Carmel — a team that SSA defeated 3-0 in early January. The Doves are confident they can beat anyone in the state, as their 16-1-3 record attests.
“The difference between this year and last year is that we had eight seniors who graduated,” said senior forward Courtney Robicheaux, the team’s leading scorer. “But we also had eight juniors. That group was always on the field. Now, we have some younger players, but it hasn’t hurt us at all. These players are good.”
SSA coach Mike Ortner agreed.
“We had never graduated more than five players until last year,” he said. “So there was some really big turnover from last year’s championship team. But things rotate. You get younger. Our fortune is that even though we’re younger, we’ve had players step up. We have an eighth-grader in goal and four freshmen starting. Everything works out.”
And, of course, there is always tradition to lean upon.
“We always carry a burden,” said senior center back Brooke Doyle, while pointing to the championship signs on the fence nearby. “It doesn’t bother us. We have a target on our backs. We’re used to getting the best effort from everyone we play. There’s nothing new to that.”
Like its sister school, St. Paul’s, the all-boys school located just blocks from SSA in downtown Covington, is also expected to be a force in the Division I playoffs. That comes as little surprise to anyone who follows local soccer, as the Wolves also are the defending state champion and have been a consistent threat for two decades.
But this year’s St. Paul’s team may be the best ever assembled on the north shore. The Wolves sport a 25-0-3 record, are the top-ranked team in the state, and are tops in the nation in at least two major high school polls. They have outscored opponents 97-6, and goalie Colin Hanley, who is set to sign with Niagra University on Wednesday, has posted 19 shutouts.
Barrick Roberts was the national player of the week earlier this season, and leads the team with 22 goals and 13 assists. Davis Neitzschman has 19 goals and Eric Guin has 15. All are seniors. St. Paul’s has 14 seniors on the team, and eight of them start.
Coach Sean Moser said this year’s team compares favorably to last year’s title winner, and that the Wolves expect to be the No. 1 seed in Division I when the boys’ brackets are released Wednesday.
“We’re confident and we’re healthy,” Moser said. “Nobody talked about being undefeated. Nobody talked about winning the district championship. We have a set goal in mind.”
That goal is obvious — another state championship.
“I know we’re physically ready,” Guin said. “We just have to make sure we’re mentally ready. We’ve been training all year; putting in the work. We’ve been getting the results we want.”
Hanley said St. Paul’s just needs to continue on its current path and things should go well for the Wolves in the postseason.
“We’ve been playing with one another for years now; first in youth leagues and now in high school,” he said. “We know how to get this done. We want to go out winners. It would mean a lot to leave the field after our last high school game with a win.”