BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University Cardinals will stay in the Lone Star State for the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament, as they travel to College Station to meet Texas A&M in a first-round matchup. The Cardinals and Aggies will meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Texas A&M’s Ellis Field.
“Texas A&M has a great soccer environment,” second-year LU coach Steve Holeman said. “I’m looking forward to our players getting one of the best experiences when it comes to soccer.”
The Cardinals enter the tournament with an 18-3-1 record on the season after going 2-14-3. LU is just the second program in NCAA Division I women’s soccer history to improve by 16 wins in one season, joining South Alabama, which went 18-3-1 in 1997 after going 2-17 the year before. It’s the first time in the 11-year history of the program that the Cardinals are going to the NCAA Tournament.
“Last year was a tough year, but we let it build us and strengthen us,” said LU senior goalkeeper Lauren Lovejoy, who has played every second in goal for the Cardinals this season. “If it wasn’t for our coach, we wouldn’t be here right now. He believed in us and encouraged us. I can’t think of a better coach to play for.”
The Cardinals will have their hands full with a Texas A&M squad that went 17-2-1 this season, finishing second in the SEC in the regular season before winning the SEC Tournament.
“We were going to be excited no matter who we found out we were going to play,” senior midfielder M.J. Eckart said after LU’s selection show viewing party. “This year has been so special. I am so grateful to be part of this history-making team. We’d love to be able to make even more history.”
This will be the seventh time Holeman has guided a team to the NCAA Tournament. He took Ole Miss to the Big Dance four times and Georgia to the tournament on two occasions. This is the first time, however, that Holeman is taking a team that received an automatic bid. The other six teams were as an at-large selection.
“The day leading up to the selection is much easier when you know you’re already in the tournament,” Holeman said. “Being on the bubble is no fun. It was much better this way.”
The winner of Friday’s game will face the winner of the first-round game between Notre Dame and IUPUI at a site to be determined on Nov. 17.