Thursday, September 3, 2009

Leaders of the pack - Women's Soccer

The LSC has 15 member schools (16 when Incarnate Word joins in 2010).
Only four member schools have men’s soccer programs – Northeastern State,
West Texas A&M, Eastern New Mexico and Midwestern, while eleven schools boast women’s soccer sides.

On the women’s LSC landscape, four programs (West Texas A&M, A&M Commerce, Midwestern and Central Oklahoma) consistently turn up as the quality of the conference. A review of the last six years conference standings indicate that these teams filled the top four spots EVERY year – nobody else has cracked the top four in six years.

The coaches for these teams have tenure – WT’s Butch Lauffer begins his 14th year, Commerce’s Neil Piper, Central Oklahoma’s Mike Cook and Midwestern’s Jeff Trimble are each beginning their 12th year.

The Scoop asked these four successful coaches about their winning formula recently. None of them claimed any of the success as their own. Each touted their school as one of the main sources of their success – the facilities, the academics, support of the administration and the quality of the athletes these factors attract. Neil Piper states that he “tries to recruit intelligent kids both on the field and in the classroom”.

Next we asked how they viewed the LSC in relation to the national soccer landscape. Each coach viewed the conference positively in comparison nationally, and pointed to successes in playing ranked teams out of our region (which, again, requires the support of the school due to the expense of the travel involved). Mike Cook indicated “The LSC has gotten better and stronger in each of the 12 years I have been here”, but also pointed out that “we need to continue to schedule and have success against other regions and then continue to strengthen our schedules as a conference.” Two teams that are common opponents to LSC members are St. Edwards and Incarnate Word (UIW joins the LSC in 2010). Both are strong programs that travel widely and are sought as regional opponents. Each coach praised UIW as a worthy opponent that will improve competitiveness and the level of play within the conference. (Maybe they can crack the impenetrable top four?)

As popularity of the women’s programs increases, the conference has a woeful lack of men’s programs, with only four representatives. That seems to be a common issue in this football crazy state, as men’s programs have been in a decline in numbers state-wide over the past few years. This in spite of the Metro areas having strong competitive leagues producing male athletes that unfortunately must go largely out of state for soccer scholarships. Of the four women’s programs we’re focusing on today, only WT and Midwestern have men’s programs, although all four coaches indicated that a men’s program would likely add to the fan base and popularity of the sport as a whole at their institution.

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Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico