When the Destrehan boys soccer team fell to 0-2-2 after four matches, chances of reaching the playoffs in what was considered a rebuilding season seemed remote.
And yet here they are, preparing to play a Division II first round playoff game that will likely be played this weekend. Matchups were officially set after presstime, but the Wildcats comfortably made the field, with coach Jhovanny Santamaria estimating his team earned the No. 19 seed or close to it.
Destrehan finished the season 8-4-4, going losing just two of its final 12 matches of the season to enter the playoffs as one of the bracket’s hottest teams.
“We started the season slowly, knew we were coming in with a new team and a lot of new players,” Santamaria said. “We have six freshmen starters that we’re working in with our seniors who have been there before. After that first few matches, we made a few adjustments and things started really clicking.”
The Wildcats finished second in their district to champion Terrebonne. Destrehan’s defense has been a big key to its success, the team allowing just six goals over its 10 district matchups.
“We improved in a lot of aspects,” Santamaria said. “We were defending well early on, but we weren’t putting the ball in the net. And if you can’t score, you can’t win games. You’ve got to put at least one in the net.”
Phillip Stratton and Justin Rigby are among the team’s defensive standouts, along with goalkeeper Kyle Grieshop. Midfielder Eric Gonzales and forward Trent Tregle are other players who have stepped forward to lead the Wildcat charge.
This is Destrehan’s fifth season in the playoffs in Santamaria’s six years with the team. Three times in the previous four trips, Destrehan advanced to round two.
Santamaria likes his team’s odds of perhaps doing so again, given its play of late.
“I think our guys understand what it takes,” he said. “It’s a totally new season now. We feel like if we played some of those teams that we lost to early again, we’d beat those teams. We have a lot of confidence.”