The old top 40 and top 100 popular music charts included a bullet next to the songs that took a big jump on each weekly listing.
If the Sun Belt Conference did that on its team standings, UL’s soccer team would have qualified for a bullet last week.
Going into the past weekend, the Ragin’ Cajuns stood ninth out of the 11 league teams and were on the outside looking in – the top eight teams make the Sun Belt postseason tournament field – nearing the mid-point of conference play.
Now, the Cajuns (6-4-3, 2-1-2) are fourth in the standings after a pair of home wins over Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina on Friday and Sunday.
Lance Key is hoping the rest of the soccer coaches in the Sun Belt Conference are wrong about his UL club.
“Obviously that was a great weekend for us,” said coach Lance Key after the 1-0 own-goal win over App State and Sunday’s weather-shortened 3-1 victory over Coastal. “I told the team on Friday that something was different, something felt different, but to get two good results against two historically good teams in the conference was huge for us.”
The task is to keep that feeling going, and it won’t be easy when UL travels to San Marcos, Texas, Friday to face preseason league favorite Texas State (6-5-2, 2-2-1). The Bobcats are the defending conference champs but haven’t had a memorable first half of the season, and are below the Cajuns in the standings in a tie for fifth entering the weekend.
Friday’s match is part of a strenuous road trip that has UL traveling from San Marcos to Monroe for a 1 p.m. Sunday match against UL-Monroe, which stands at the bottom of the league at 0-4.
The Cajuns caught a break in Friday when Rachel Sutter’s shot attempt 34 seconds into the second overtime was blocked, bounced off an App State defender and ricocheted past Mountaineer goalkeeper Kerry Eagleston to give Key his first conference win as UL coach. But Key said it wasn’t just good fortune.
“That really was created by a dangerous probing ball from Una (Einarsdottir) and Telly (Vunipova), and then Rachel pressing their back line and putting them in an uncomfortable situation,” Key said. “It was more a matter of the 100 minutes prior to the goal and all they did during that time, rather than the 30-second spell when we got the goal. WE felt like we created that opportunity and created that goal.”
Sunday’s win was the Cajuns’ first in five all-time matches against the Chanticleers, and UL made it look almost easy when Gwen Mummert and Skyla Sykes scored in the first 20 minutes and Einarsdottir added a clinching second-half goal. The match was shortened by five minutes due to lightning.
“We did a good job of managing things on both sides of the ball,” Key said. “We forced some difficult situations and matchups and forced the goalkeeper into back-to-back mistakes, we had good numbers forward on the second goal and Una had a fantastic individual effort to get the third.”
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UL will be playing the teams picked to finish at the top and at the bottom of the league standings in the preseason coaches’ poll this weekend, and Key said the veteran players on the team realize they’re in a good position.
“We’re coming off three straight conference matches with points, and I know historically that’s pretty irrelevant,” he said. “But the players who have been around, who have some memory of the last couple of years, they realize that puts them in great position to ride that momentum. We’re getting better, and more importantly we can identify and recognize the things that have allowed us to do that.”
The Friday and Sunday matches start the second half of the Sun Belt season and start a three-match road swing, with UL also going to Georgia State next weekend before finishing the regular season at home against Georgia Southern and Troy on Oct. 25 and 27.
SOCCER: UL (6-4-3, 2-1-2) at Texas State (6-5-2, 2-2-1)
WHEN/WHERE: Friday, 7 p.m., Bobcat Soccer Complex, San Marcos, Texas