Lance Key says it would take a mathematician to figure out the Sun Belt Conference soccer race, even with only one weekend remaining in the regular season.
It doesn’t take a calculator, though, to figure out that his Ragin’ Cajuns need a victory in one of their two season-ending home matches to reach some of its season-long goals.
The most important immediate goal is making the Sun Belt Conference Tournament set Nov 6-10 in Foley, Alabama, and the Cajuns (7-6-3, 3-3-2) can assure that berth Friday and Sunday when they host Georgia Southern and Troy. UL hosts the Eagles (6-8-1, 3-4-1) at 7 p.m. Friday and the Trojans 10-2-4, 5-1-2) for Senior Day at 3 p.m. Sunday, with both matches airing on CST.
The Cajuns are fifth in the Sun Belt standings with 11 points. The top eight teams qualifying for the league tournament. Four teams, including Georgia Southern, have 10 points in the league table that gives three points for a win and one for a draw. Conceivably, if UL does not manage any points in its final two matches, all four could pass the Cajuns and leave UL where it’s been for the past two season — on the outside looking in for the Sun Belt tournament.
A win in either match, though, would likely be enough to claim a spot, but nothing is certain and that’s how Key is approaching the two matches. He’s not thinking about the potential for tiebreakers, the possibility of one-point draws or anything that would affect the standings other than a Cajuns victory.
“I don’t have to go through the mathematics,” he said. “Everyone’s within a few points. But none of that’s even on my radar because we haven’t been playing well and we have a home match Friday and we have to win it. We’re not even talking about Sunday because it doesn’t matter right now.”
UL is coming off a 2-0 loss at Georgia State last Friday, one where a win would have made this weekend less vital. But the host Panthers scored twice in the first 20 minutes and held off numerous UL rushes the rest of the way.
“We had a great opportunity in front of us and we didn’t take it,” Key said. “Alexis (Arnoult) had a great run through the box early and Skyla (Sykes) had a decent chance for us to go up 1-0 in the first three minutes, and that turned into being down by two. We didn’t take the opportunity that I thought we would have, based on where we are at this point of the season.”
Key said the performance that he saw early in October, when UL took two straight league wins and had a tough 1-0 road loss to reigning Sun Belt champion Texas State, hasn’t been there over the last two matches despite the Cajuns downing UL-Monroe 2-0 prior to the Georgia State loss.
“I don’t think we’ve figured out the attacking part and executing in the final third,” he said. “We have tightened up the defensive third since the start of the year, but even with that we didn’t’ defend particularly well last Friday. There’s still a lot of ups-and-downs.”
A win in either weekend match would insure no worse than a break-even record, which would be a first in three seasons, and UL enters the weekend unbeaten on its home field this season with five wins and a lone draw with current league leader South Alabama.
“I’d much rather play at home this weekend than be on the road, that’s for sure,” Key said. “But we’re still playing a team Friday that’s won two of its last three, and they’re coming in knowing they’re in desperation mode. If they (Georgia Southern) don’t get three points they put themselves in a tough spot since they’ve got to go to Texas State from here. That’s one reason I’m glad we’re at home.”