BEAUMONT, Texas – The Nicholls Colonels are becoming a familiar conference-opening foe for the Lamar University women’s soccer team.
The Cardinals and Colonels will face each other in the opening game of the Southland Conference schedule for the third straight season when Nicholls visits the LU Soccer Complex at 7 p.m. Friday. It marks the fourth time in the 11-year history of the LU program that Nicholls has provided the opposition on the opening night of the SLC slate.
LU is 7-2-1 all-time vs. Nicholls, including 2-0-1 in conference openers. Last season, the Cardinals and Colonels played to a scoreless draw at Nicholls. LU is 4-1-0 all-time vs. the Colonels in Beaumont, including a 1-0 win in their last meeting in the 2015 season.
LU enters Friday’s game with a 5-2-1 record, the most wins the Cardinals have ever had entering conference play. LU enters the game on a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).
Much of the Cardinals’ success is due to a stifling defense that has allowed LU to post four straight shutouts and hold opponents scoreless for the last 391 minutes, 10 seconds. Both marks are school records.
Senior Lauren Lovejoy, a three-time Southland Conference goalkeeper of the week this season, has five shutouts this year, one shy of the school record. Lovejoy has played every second in the nets for LU so far.
Lovejoy has been supported by a solid defensive effort by the Cardinals. LU has allowed just six goals on the season. Three players (junior midfielder Juliana Ocampo, senior defender Marie Lund and junior defender Amelia Fullmer) have all claimed conference defensive player of the week accolades this season.
“Defense is something we put a lot of focus and emphasis on,” Holeman said. “We gave up too many goals last season. So far, that work has paid off.”
The Cardinals have also improved offensively. After scoring just 13 goals all of last season, LU has scored 16 times in just eight games this year.
Junior Kelso Peskin leads the Cardinals with seven points on one goal and a conference-best five assists. Samantha Moreno and Hailey Loupe each have five points on two goals and one assist.
The LU offense will face a stubborn Nicholls (2-4-0) defense that allowed just five goals over the first five games before dropping a 5-1 decision at Louisiana on Sunday.
“They will be tough to break down defensively,” Holeman said of the Colonels. “They possess the ball well.”
Nicholls goalkeeper Roosa Hurmerinta played every second of the Colonels’ first five games, posting a 1.00 goals-against average and a .808 save percentage. Taylor Benoit took the loss against Louisiana in her first collegiate appearance.
Haylee Atwell leads Nicholls in scoring, having tallied two of the Colonels’ six goals.
Friday’s game will be the first home game for the Cardinals since a 3-1 win over Louisiana on Aug. 27.
“It will be nice to have a home game again,” Holeman said. “We’ve traveled quite a bit. We’re feeling pretty good about the way we’re playing right now, and we hope we can carry that momentum into conference.”
PROMOTIONS: The first 100 fans at Friday’s game will receive a free phone fan. In addition, there will be a tailgate party, catered by Buffalo Wild Wings, for all LU international students.
WEATHER: Friday night’s forecast calls for mostly clear skies with temperatures in the 70s.
CONFERENCE OPENERS: The Cardinals are 4-5-1 all-time in the first game of the conference season, including 3-4-0 at home.
TICKETS: For tickets, please call 409-880-1715, or visit www.LamarCardinals.com. Tickets are available at the Montagne Center ticket office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Tickets will be available at the LU Soccer Complex one hour prior to kickoff. LU students receive free admission with their Cardinal One card. Members of the Junior Cardinals Club receive free admission when they present their membership badge at the entrance.