When Sian Hudson took over the LSU soccer program, she had a tall order ahead of her. The team was coming off a 3-12-3 campaign in 2019, and she was going to need all of the magic she used to UCCS into a successful program.
And right away, disaster struck. COVID wiped out the spring session and she was forced to try and implement her system with a team which had barely practiced together. The results were predictable, as LSU struggled mightily in the fall of 2020, going 0-6-2 in regular season play.
But a funny thing happened on the way to disaster. The team finally started to click in the SEC Tournament, winning twice before bowing out to national power Texas A&M in a tightly fought context. The spring session brought more encouraging results, as LSU went 6-1-1 to somehow post a .500 record over the academic year, despite failing to post a win in any of its first eight matches.
Now, with her first full offseason. Hudson has the real chance to build off of that optimism. Is the turnaround for real?
The Southern Miss game opened up the LSU athletic season, and provided our first glimpse at what Hudson has been building. And the early returns were encouraging.
LSU controlled possession for most of the game, but they also couldn’t quite coordinate their efforts into a coherent attack. That possession went for naught, as USM, despite conceding possession, had the bulk of quality chances in the first half.
With a mere 14 seconds left in the half, midfielder Jordan Johnson broke the deadlock and found the back of the net. It was an incredible momentum swing, as the game looked like it was headed to locker room tied, only to completely change the complexion of the game in the dying seconds.
LSU almost made it a two-goal lead in the first minute back from the half, when Meghan Johnson clattered one off of the crossbar. It seemed to energize the Tigers, who started turning their advantage in possession into shots on goal.
But disaster struck in the 63rd minute. Alice Campos shot the ball off the frame, but unlike Johnson’s shot, which skied harmlessly away, the rebound found its way to the feet of Blessing Kingsley, who slotted it into a gaping net.
LSU looked like it was going to dominate the stat sheet, only to come away with a tie. Which is progress over last year, but not the statement the team wanted to make. Until…
That is what we call an ugly goal. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and credit to the LSU team to keep battling for the loose ball in front of the net. You need ugly goals. Wasila Diwura-Soale closed down the scoring, and secured the 2-1 opening win.
LSU followed that up with an absolutely thrashing of Sam Houston State on Sunday.
It has been a long time since LSU soccer dismantled a completely overmatched foe, and the fact that this one was such a mismatch shows how far the program has come in such a short time. This is the sort of game LSU should dominate, and they did.
Tinaya Alexander led the way with a four goal game. Alexander lived in font of the net all game, peppering the goal with 10 shots, 8 of them on net. That’s an output for a whole team, usually.
Abby Delozier, the Sam Houston goalie, was simply overwhelmed. Imagine making 14 saves… and still allowing 8 goals. LSU fired 22 shots on net, and took a total of 35 credited shots. That’s just silly.
Alesia Garcia chipped in a hat trick of her own. The race for the scoring lead for LSU wasn’t resolved until the 89th minute, when Alexander scored her fourth.
Believe it or not, there actually was a moment of concern. Up 3-0, a careless play in the back led to a break all alone against LSU. Mollie Swift came out of her net to play the ball, a little too casually, and ricocheted the ball off the SHSU attacker, who then put the ball into a wide open net.
Luckily for LSU, the officials called a hand ball. Honestly, it was a fairly borderline call. The ball did strike the player’s arm, but she also had it tucked against her body and the ball played her rather than vice versa. It could have gone either way.
But that’s one of those good problems. Now, the coaching staff at least has something t pretend t be angry about. LSU’s not there yet, but the early returns are promising.
Defeated Southern Miss, 2-1
Defeated Sam Houston St., 8-0
Thursday, at South Florida
Sunday, at Central Florida