It’s not often that a team has a chance to make history for a school, but for coach Courtnie Prather of the Southern women’s soccer team, that opportunity lays before her and her team.
The Lady Jaguars have already entrenched their names in stone as the first soccer team to ever win the Western Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference by posting a 3-0-1 record in conference play, and the most wins in school history with a 7-8-2 overall record.
Yet the Lady Jaguars are still in search of their first conference championship as they kick off the SWAC Conference Championship Tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday at The Houston Amateur Sports Park against Alabama A&M as the No. 1 seed from the Western Division.
“It’s a great feeling,” Prather said of the team’s accomplishments this season. “We always knew we had the abilities with our returning players, we were just always a player short, or something was just a little bit missing that kept us from being as successful.”
Southern rebounded after a rough start to the beginning of the season which saw them lose five of its first six contests.
“We suffered some early injuries,” Prather said. “We had some injuries to some key players. We also had nine new players on the roster this season, so it took a little while to build continuity and a rapport, and just build that chemistry in how they play together.”
Yet Prather, who is in her first season as the team’s coach after serving as an assistant for the past three years under former coach John Knighten, and her team would not be denied of their goals that they set in the preseason.
“Our goal was not only to dominate our division, but become a contender throughout the entire conference,” Prather said. “We want to maintain our dominance within the division, and put ourselves in position where we are always a contender when it comes in terms to the conference tournament. And eventually we want to become a contender within the region.”
Even though the 2013 campaign was Prather’s first at the helm on The Bluff, Prather said that the goals she set for her squad were achievable and was proven correct.
“It’s like we always tell our kids not only in soccer but with life you should always set higher goals for yourself, if not what’s the point?” Prather said. “I think we have put together the right staff around us, and brought in some great players, and as of right now we have met our first-year goals.”
The Lady Jaguars will need to win the eight-team tournament in order to secure a birth in the 64-team NCAA Division 1 tournament, set to begin Nov. 15.