The Southland Conference tournament has come to an end and so has the 2017 soccer season for the Wildcats, but it won’t soon be forgotten. This season was one of historic proportions for the Wildcats. Not only was it their first year of Div. 1 postseason play, but they also became the first ACU team to win a Southland Conference postseason tournament game in just their first attempt.
Head coach Casey Wilson said this season continues to build on the foundation the coaching staff and players have worked so hard on building.
“The returning players have a full spectrum of everything, and maybe mentally they’ll even be more prepared for the next year and knowing how close we were [to the championship match].”
After upsetting the No. 3 seed in the tournament in McNeese State in a dramatic shootout, the Wildcats battled till the end against a perennial powerhouse in Stephen F. Austin. ACU was eventually beaten 4-2 in its second shootout in three days, but Wilson said if a few more things would have went their way in that game, his team would’ve been primed for the championship match.
“I think that, you know, otherwise were a couple of penalty kicks and a solid game [against Lamar] away from playing this week, so they knew how close they were so now it’s just a matter of capitalizing the next time they get the opportunity,” Wilson said.
Moving forward the Wildcats will likely be viewed as one of the top conference competitors, but as the Southland Conference to continue to get tougher each Wilson said the team must keep the bar high, and the returners must value the team’s past success but continue to lead the way for the future.
“It is always nice to know that we have a good handful of freshman that have a lot of game experience, because that is important going into next year as opposed to being pretty top heavy, where mostly upperclassmen play,” Wilson said. “That is one thing that we always benefit from is we always have enough impact players coming in as freshman and there veterans by the time they are sophomores.”
Wilson said the team also looks forward to next year’s recruiting class that will bring in more impact players to the program. And if the team continues to compete at a high level, it is likely to see that trend remain.
The Wildcats finish the season with an overall record of 8-10-2 with both ties coming in the Southland Conference Championship and finished as the No. 6 seed in the regular season conference standings, but as a top-four team in the tournament. ACU also defeated SFA in the regular season for the first time in Div. 1 and joined the Lumberjacks to have a winning conference record in each of the last five seasons.