A year ago, Hahnville was just happy to edge out their competition to quality for the postseason. This time around, the Lady Tigers aim to kick the door down.
Hahnville earned its highest seed in nearly a decade when Division I playoff brackets were announced Tuesday, and the 10th seeded Tigers will host No. 23 Barbe this Friday, 5 p.m.at Tiger Stadium. Destrehan also punched their postseason ticket, the 21st seeded Wildcats traveling to No. 12 West Monroe this Friday for a 4 p.m. start.
The Tigers broke a postseason drought last year when it reached the playoffs as the No. 24 and final seed in Division I. But once the young team got there, it didn’t shy from the spotlight, giving 9th seeded Mount Carmel a true battle in a 1-0 loss.
This season, nobody’s simply happy to be here, says Hahnville coach Alex Romero, even as the Tigers host their first home soccer playoff game since 2013.
“We were excited to finally squeak into the playoffs last year. And the girls are still excited, but this year it’s been a little more like a business trip,” Romero said. “This is a culmination of the girls putting the work in. We set ourselves up for this and it’s a direct result of the commitment that’s been made. Now, it’s time to go execute. It’s a totally different vibe.”
Hahnville’s played consistent ball all season, carrying a 14-6-4 record into round one. Of late, that hasn’t changed, going 8-3-1 since late December. While the Tigers lost 3-0 to Mount Carmel last week, with it came a chance to play the No. 2 seed in Division I just before the playoffs. And a regular season ending 2-2 tie against McGehee saw the Tigers battle back from an early deficit behind Marissa Gilbert’s two goals.
Barbe is a familiar foe. The two teams faced off early this season, Hahnville earning a 3-1 victory.
“You can throw that out, though, because this is the playoffs,” Romero said. “We wanted to play them (in the regular season) because Barbe’s a team that’s in the playoffs each year. That’s where we want to be.”
Romero said this game will be no doubt a tough one. Barbe’s defense is a lights out unit – the three Hahnville goals from their previous matchup, in fact, represent the lone game Barbe has allowed more than two goals to any team.
“They make you work for everything,” Romero said. “We definitely had to earn it that way. Their goalkeeper is pretty strong. We’ll have to work for and earn every result we get.”
While Hahnville has known for awhile the playoffs were almost certainly in the cards, Destrehan could not be so sure. The Ladycats lost 2-0 to the Tigers on Jan. 21, placing them on the brink of postseason elimination with five matches left to go.
But Destrehan, a Division II quarterfinalist and semifinalist over the past two years, was not ready to see its season end. The Wildcats did what they had to do, coming together at just the right time to reel off five wins in a row, sealing up a playoff berth as Division I’s 21st seed. No. 12 West Monroe will welcome the team on Friday, and the trip represents Destrehan’s furthest away from home this season.
Destrehan coach Mert Deger said his team has kicked its play up a level, and he thinks confidence has a lot to do with that. The Wildcats had their offensive struggles this season and had scored 30 goals total prior to the five game win streak – they’ve matched that total since, scoring 30 in those final five matches alone.
“It’s what I was hoping for over this final stretch … we clinched a playoff spot and the girls got it done,” Deger said. “I think they’ve got their confidence back. They’re certainly playing like it.”
Faith LeVeck and Stephanie Ruiz have been among the team’s offensive leaders during the late stretch, which included wins over St. Charles Catholic, Haynes, Lee Magnet, East St. John and East Jefferson.
Destrehan (9-7-4) and West Monroe will battle in a game of teams entering the postseason playing their best soccer of the season. Destrehan has won seven of their last nine, while West Monroe has won eight of nine to close the regular season.
Destrehan’s veteran players have plenty of postseason experience over the past two seasons and are stout defensively, which could make them a tough out. Deger believes it will be the case.
“It’s playoff time … you play with intensity, passion and, of course, when an experienced player sees the opportunity to step up and make a play, it can swing a game,” Deger said. “Both teams are in top form right now.”