LSU junior forward Rammie Noel left her home in Lafayette in July to begin preparations for the 2021 soccer season.
When Noel, and fellow Lafayette-area native Maddie Moreau return home more than two months later, they’ll be with the nation’s seventh-ranked, carrying an undefeated record needing a victory to set school record for consecutive wins.
“I’m going to be a really happy girl,” Noel said. “I’ve spent my whole life passing by UL and for a lot of people this will be the first time to actually see me play soccer. It’s going to be exciting. I don’t like to say, ‘oh yeah I’m good’. I’d rather people just watch for themselves. It will be exciting to see what they say about the game and my team. It’s been a long time coming for this program. It’s an opportunity to show what we’re about.”
Three years into her college career Noel finds herself playing for the first time against UL-Lafayette (2-4) on its home field when the Ragin’ Cajuns host the Tigers on Thursday at 7 p.m. where admission is free.
There’s been a rush of emotions Noel’s dealt with in the build up to playing against a school and several players she’s familiar with.
LSU’s trip to Lafayette represents the first for the soccer program since 2011. The Tigers have never lost to the Cajuns in nine previous matches and Noel doesn’t want anything to spoil her homecoming.
“It is a big deal to play against UL,” Noel said. “I went to their camps, I trained with my club (Cajun Soccer Club) team on their field. I’ve been around the UL girls. It’s nice to see friends from high school and all the girls from my club team. It’s excited. I’m really happy with what the team is doing.”
Even LSU’s meteoric rise the nation’s No. 7 team – the highest ranking in program history – and a perfect record that includes three wins over ranked teams has Noel pinching herself. Dating to end of the spring season, the Tigers have equaled a program record nine-game winning streak set in 2002.
“It’s almost too good to be true,” she said. “I’m not really surprised because we have a lot of heart and we’ve been working so hard from the moment (LSU coach) Sian (Hudson) came to our team. The hard work has paid off.”
Old home week will be an uplifting one for both Noel, who was part of four district titles and scored 32 goals as a senior at Acadiana High, and Moreau who starred at St. Thomas More.
Noel’s count reached 120 when discussing the number of familiar faces that have indicated they’ll be in attendance to cheer her on. That large group ranges from family to former club coaches and teammates, to former high school classmates.
There’s a lot of people responsible for the success story Noel’s become, a soccer journey that began at the tender age of 3-years-old, through her ascent in club soccer to high school and now to LSU where she was a second team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2020.
“Playing in Lafayette will be an energy booster,” Noel said of her and Moreau, a junior midfielder. “We are on home soil even though we’re really not. Just to get to play in front of our family where we’re from is a good feeling. We’ll have enough energy.”
Noel’s started in five of her team’s six games this season where she’s accumulated 363 minutes played with one goal and two assists. But scoring is one facet to her role which starts and ends with the high-level motor she brings to the field with the intention of kick-starting her team’s engine.
“I challenged myself with going away for the summer and working on my game in Pensacola,” Noel said. “I’ve been working hard, and I want to see that pay off. I’m working toward the next level every single game. I want to be the best individual player and teammate. My focus is to bring a lot of energy on and off the field.”
Facing UL-Lafayette, which has already lost to SEC teams Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi State, officially brings to a close a five-game road that began Aug. 26 in Tampa, Fla. and continued to Orlando.
Because of the wrath of Hurricane Ida on Louisiana’s coast and its impact on the Baton Rouge area, LSU opted not to return home after defeating Central Florida and instead flew directly to Phoenix for a pair of matches with Arizona and Arizona State which they won 2-0 and 5-2, respectively.
The Tigers cap the nonconference portion of their schedule against the Cajuns before turning their attentions to the start of a 10-game league schedule with a highly anticipated home match Sept. 17 versus Mississippi State.
Noel would love nothing more than to leave her hometown with another victory before the season truly kicks into high gear with the start of conference play.
“We were supposed to play them last year but didn’t,” Noel said of the Cajuns. “One of my ex-club teammates told me they were playing us this year. I’m more excited now than when she told me two months ago. I’m pumped up. It’s going to feel like a Friday night football game.”