Path toward stability: LSU soccer registers win in NCAA Tournament before running into defending national champions

Senior Wasila Diwura-Soale (6) pushes the ball in the team's 3-1 NCAA Tournament win over Lamar at LSU Soccer Stadium. PHOTO BY: LSU athletics

It was the natural progression third-year LSU soccer coach SIAN HUDSON was looking for.

A year after guiding the Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament in three years, Hudson got them back to that stage with an extended stay.

Not only did LSU return to play in the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year, and eighth overall, the Tigers were seeded No. 8 and served as a first-round host Nov. 11 in a 3-1 victory over Lamar – the program’s first postseason win since 2018.

“Making the second round of the tournament was a big goal after losing in the first round last year,” Hudson said. “We wanted to do one better. We didn’t have the highest of highs we had last year with rankings or beating Top 10 teams. Overall, we were able to have a more consistent and stable foundation for the future.”

The 2022 run for LSU (10-4-7) came to an end at top-seeded and 2021 national champion Florida State. It was a match in which the Tigers struck first 10 minutes into the game, went into halftime tied at 1-1 but didn’t survive a disastrous beginning to the second half in a 4-1 defeat.

Florida State advanced to this year’s Final Four alongside LSU’s Southeastern Conference rival Alabama.

“That first half performance against Florida State gave everyone a ton of confidence of who we could be moving forward,” Hudson said. “What that game did for us is that it opened their eyes to the fact we can compete with the top teams in the country. That was for 45 minutes. We’ve got to demonstrate the ability to do it for a full 90. I think the team showed a lot of heart after that.

“The big learning lesson is that you can’t switch off against good teams,” Hudson added. “In that 7-10-minute period to start the second half, where we conceded two quick goals in three minutes, that was our downfall. If we could have gotten out and survived the first 10 minutes of the half, I think that game could have gone either way.”

The loss to Florida State was LSU’s first since a 5-0 home setback to Alabama on Oct. 9.

The Tigers were the picture of a team that enjoyed some big moments throughout the season but were left to wonder what might have been.

For the ninth time in school history LSU reached double-digit wins but more exasperatingly set a program high with seven ties that included deadlocks with Central Florida and Pepperdine in nonconference play.

They also experienced four draws in SEC play with Texas A&M, Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn.

LSU went through an offensive malaise during the latter half of conference play, failing to score a goal in four straight matches, until closing with an impressive 4-1 home win over Ole Miss.

“When you take a step back after the season and reflect, I think we were able to accomplish a lot of our goals for this year,” Hudson said. “One of main goals was to be more consistent in terms of not having big swings between big wins and really disappointing losses to teams we probably shouldn’t have lost to. It was good to see the overall consistency. We set ourselves a goal of never losing two in a row, be more dominant at home (6-1-2) and I think outside the loss to Alabama, our home results were improved.”

LSU was rewarded for an RPI of No. 33 with an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament and faced Lamar.

All-SEC freshman IDA HERMANNSDOTTIR returned from an injury to score LSU’s first goal. Goalkeeper MOLLEE SWIFT buried a penalty kick for a 2-0 halftime lead and BRENNA McPARTLAN added her team’s third goal in the second half, setting up a road date Nov. 18 against Florida State.

Hermannsdottir led the Tigers with seven goals and 16 points this season, while junior MOLLEE BAKER added four goals, six assists and 14 points.

Senior WASILA DIWURA-SOALE, a second-team All-SEC choice and second team all-region selection, gave LSU a 1-0 lead on a team-high ninth assist from ANGELINA THORESON and went into halftime tied at 1-1. Florida State responded in the second half with a pair of goals in a three-minute stretch to put the game away.

First team All-SEC center back LINDSI JENNINGS, along with fifth-year players SHANNON COOKE and MEGHAN JOHNSON, were part a 10-member senior class that helped set a foundation of success for the future

With 41 career wins, 22 shutouts and 283 saves, Swift is among the team’s headliners returning for the 2023 season.

“The players have done an unbelievable job helping us move the program forward,” Hudson said. “We had an opportunity to be seeded in a national tournament. We brought a NCAA game here to Baton Rouge. The overall consistency of our performance was much improved.”

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