Lady Gators expecting depth to take them to new levels
ST. AMANT - St. Amant made the postseason for the 10th straight year last season before getting knocked out in the first round by Fountainbleau to finish the season with an 8-14-3 record.
Head coach Jason Naquin believes that depth will bring the Lady Gators back to the playoffs and push them over the hump this season.
“We have a lot of depth this year that we have missed in the past,” Naquin said. “We have more depth than we have ever had which should allow us to possibly run other teams into the ground. We have three or four subs in the midfield, the longest running position.”
St. Amant loses three seniors from last season, Stephanie Wilkins, Jordan Lemoine and Julia Frederic. All three made all-district. Frederic led the team with 167 steals and Wilkins added 138.
“We are coming back with a really solid crew of mostly sophomores and juniors,” Naquin said.
“They were really kind of the core of the team last year and they have developed more. We have four seniors and they are very key but ultimately we are a young team. Teams won’t be able to just concentrate on one or two players. We have weapons.”
Co-defensive MVP Samantha Jackson returns at goal keeper after registering 90 saves last season. Others returning include first-team selection Joleigh Hartman and Dana Songe and second team pick Amelia Beech. Hartman made 78 steals a year ago and scored 15 goals, while Songe had 52 steals and 12 goals. The Lady Gators also return Lexi Crew who is coming off a knee injury.
“All three of our seniors last year were defensive players but the defense should be solid.” Naquin said. “We are really suffering experience wise. Experience wise we are thin but we have a lot of speed and are well organized. We are adjusting.”
“Joleigh and Dana are really kind of the engine,” Naquin said. “They make things happen. They are dangerous from the inside and outside and work really well together but we are not just relying on them.”
Naquin believes the strength of the team is cohesion but weaknesses lie in high-level game experience.
“The girls play very well together,” Naquin said. “They read each other well and their intelligence on the field will be a big component for us but a lot of our opponents have girls that play year round. As the season progresses that should not be problem.”
St. Amant plays a brutal schedule that began with St. Joseph Thursday night at the Pit before facing Mandeville the following night. The Lady Gators then host Episcopal before traveling to Zachary and Lafayette. They then host Baton Rouge before district play starts but will host Terrebonne and Denham Springs during.
“The key is to stay injury free and play smart,” Naquin said. “We have to make sure we maintain our focus throughout the season and we can’t give up silly plays.”
Naquin admits Dutchtown will once again be the favorite but believes St. Amant will be ready.
“We can challenge for a district championship,” Naquin said. “It will be tough but I think my girls are ready. They have practiced really hard and know it is going to be a tough road but we are going to take it one day at a time.”