Talented Destrehan attempting to recapture form of ’18, ’19 seasons

Ny’Jha Keller
Ny’Jha Keller and her Destrehan teammates are looking to turn around a slow start and build on the program's high level of success over the past two years.

Coming off of its best back-to-back seasons in program history, the Destrehan Ladycats soccer team has had something of a strange 2019-20 campaign so far.

Six seniors have returned from last year’s quarterfinalist that went 19-2 and allowed just 11 total goals all season. A year prior, the Wildcats reached the Division II semifinals for the first time in team history.

But it’s been a slower start this time around. Destrehan holds a record of 2-4-4 through 10 matches this season, with all four losses coming in tournament play. Some unfortunate timing has tripped the ‘Cats up in part; several players missed tournament action for injuries or other reasons, and a cluster of games when not at full strength can put a dent in anyone’s win-loss record.

At full strength, this is a talented team led by its veteran seniors, but nonetheless one that must adjust. Five freshman start along with those senior players. The Wildcats have also moved up in classification to Division I, the highest in the LHSAA.

DHS coach Mert Deger, in his second season with the team, knows he has a quality team—it’s just a matter of hitting its stride, he says.

“We have quite a bit in our lineup to be excited about,” Deger said. “Six seniors, a couple of sophomores and a very good freshman group coming in getting a lot of playing time. For the young ones, it’s trying to get them acclimated to playing a more physical game at this level, and meshing their skills with our seniors.”

Monday showed the Ladycats can still play with the best, emerging with a tie against a Ben Franklin team ranked in the top five of Division II.

“We’ve had a few decent results,” Deger said. “We’re better than our record shows.”

Stephanie Ruiz, Jordan Lemoine and Jordan Callahan are three seniors who have been leading the charge thus far this season. The team’s breaking in a freshman goalkeeper in Hope Berg who has started every game for the Wildcats. And freshman Elissa Viquez is one Deger believes has a bright future – though her contributions in the present are providing quite a lift as well.

“(Viquez) brings a lot to the table,” Deger said. “She’s been playing high level (club) ball … our seniors have really been holding down the fort defensively. We’ve had some injuries at forward, but once we get everyone together, I think we should get going.”

He said the team should be at full strength in the coming week, which represents some good timing for a change: district play is set to begin with a matchup against H.L. Bourgeois looming to kickstart that schedule, with H.L. Bourgeois hosting DHS on Friday to begin District 6-I competition.

With the move to Division I, Destrehan and Hahnville are back in the same district, and perhaps the timing couldn’t be better: an ascendant Lady Tigers team is ranked 10th in power points in Division I, while the Wildcats program has found a new level over the past few seasons. The two rivals face off on Jan. 21 at Hahnville.

“That’ll be a big game … Hahnville’s very good,” Deger said. “They’ve really come together. We’re finding our way again … there’s plenty of soccer left. It’s about playing our best from here and finishing strong.”

Beyond Hahnville, the district is not an easy one. Central Lafourche sits ninth in power points (DHS at CLHS Jan. 17) and Bourgeois 22nd. Destrehan stands 29th. All would make the playoffs were it to start today, though Deger hopes to see his team rapidly gain ground.

“Hopefully, we can make a run and get into that 10 to 18 range,” said Deger. “We’ve had a challenging schedule and battled through some things. But I think it’ll make us stronger.”

 

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