Airline's life-long teammates
The Airline High School soccer team has big expectations this year and two of the starting 11 have a bond that might help carry the day.
Senior midfielder Patrick Laurent and senior defender Jordan Gaudet have been playing together for over a decade, stretching back to Apollo Elementary. They're part of a team that has a strong bond running throughout — eight of the starters have been playing together for the last two years, and four have played together for six years.
Those relationships will no doubt be tested by the unfamiliar strain of high hopes.
The team finished 16 in the state last year, made their first playoff trip since 2006, and hosted their first home playoff game in history.
Now everyone believes Airline can bring home the state title.
“I think we surprised some people,” said Jordan. “Airline hasn't been a good team (consistently), we've only been to state once in the last 50 years. Now we're the exact opposite and we're going to be the best team in north Louisiana,” said Jordan.
“We set the goal to make playoffs and we achieved that and the steps we took to do that surprised some people,” Patrick said.
But those expectations aren't weighing heavily on the pair.
“It's going to push us to work harder and reach those expectations,” said Jordan.
“We have always been a team that has gone out and done our best. So whatever the expectations are, we set our own goals and try to reach them,” said Patrick. “We're doing the best job we can, doing our best to meet the expectations and playing best soccer we can.”
Coach Sarah Yarina acknowledged the pair is an important cog in the Vikings machine and hopes they will be leaders during the long season.
“They're both important in that they're skilled and know the game really well,” she said. “I'm hoping this year they will step up and keep people motivated because it can get a little long, and grow and improve as players and people.”
The three-year starters earned team honors last year — Patrick was overall team MVP while Jordan was defensive MVP.
Jordan described Patrick as flexible and a powerful playmaker. Patrick said Jordan is reliable and a warrior who fights for the ball.
The personal relationship is represented on the field in that Jordan, as a defensive player, links play to Patrick when pushing for a goal.
“He's probably part of reason I'm still playing,” said Jordan. “If I didn't know anyone on the team, I would've quit a long time ago. He helps with the commitment.”
“I feel comfortable that if we lose the ball, he's going to get it back. When he commits to a tackle, he does it in the most unconventional way you can think of. It makes me feel good that my best friend is back there,” said Patrick.
Even when they're not on the pitch, the pair excels. They are on the verge of Eagles Scouts, with their Boy Scouts Troop 113 Eagle Projects benefitting Airline Soccer.
Jordan helped fence a practice field and Patrick built an equipment shed for the team.
He started his project to fence a section of field off for the soccer team the summer after his freshmen year. The three-day effort cost approximately $2,000 and he raised money with the help of the AHS soccer boosters.
“The fence is as long as a football field and in this Louisiana weather, it's hard to get auger to get into dirt. It took six guys pushing down to dig a hole. And that was just the posts,” said Jordan. “The fields are much better than they were, there are no ruts on the field from people doing donuts."
Patrick's project grew out of giving the team a place to store its gear.
“Guys didn't have anywhere to put bags, so to make it more convenient instead of carrying around three bags, now they can just drop it in there and get it before practice,” said Patrick.
His project cost $1,032 and he worked with the school's maintenance to help make it the most affordable and reliable building possible.
“I worked with (Bossier Schools Maintenance Supervisor) Stacy Roge and the maintenance department. I said if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have had a project.
Rougeau helped get the materials together while maintenance department employees volunteered their time to help build it and donations from McElory metal lowered the fundraising amounts.
High School Soccer 12-13 Season Parish round up:
Last Season's Record: 21-7-1; lost in first round of playoffs
Coach: Sarah Yarina
Players to Watch: Seniors Patrick Laurent, Jordan Gaudet, and Matt Hanisee
Expectations: “Improve on what we did last year and to finish higher in district and advance further in playoffs,” said Yarina.
On a Female Coaching a Boys Team: “It is a little different, but they're all athletes and I go in with same expectations and I want to help them reach their goals to be strong students and strong athletes.”
Last Season's Record: 8-4
Coach: Jim Jacobe
Players to Watch: Seniors Melissa Beard, Mariah Allen, Abby Booker, and Sophomore Ashley Faith
Expectations: “I hope to improve to 10-2 and make the second round of the playoffs,” said Jacobe. “I'm looking forward to the season, I think we have a strong team and we're working to bring them together.”
Last Season's Record: 12-8-1; second in district; lost in first round of playoffs
Coach: Bryan George
Player(s) to Watch: Mitchell Matthews, Joseph Perrett, Dylan Rogers, Austin Quijas
Expectations: “We're a fairly young team, but I hope to be in the same spot as we were last year — contending for district and hopefully, we come out on top.”
Last Season's Record: 13-7-1; lost in second round of playoffs
Coach: Kyle Cox
Player to Watch: Senior Kelcie Walker
Expectations: “Always look for district title. Ended up second behind Calvary. Previous two years so we're looking to get back and win championship,” said Cox.
On Needing Players to Step Up: “I've got a few frgshmen coming in I'm hoping will make an impact. We're not as deep this season as we have been, we're going to need some girls to step up this year.”
Last Season's Record: 12-6; district runner-up; lost in first round of playoffs
Coach: Hunter Pipes
Players to Watch: Luis Martinez and Mateo Martinez
Expectations: “We're rebuilding. We've been wiped out by graduation and losing people left and right to other schools. But we're playing to win,” said Pipes.
On Playing as a Team: “We're going to take our bumps early but we're always going to compete for district. We've been blessed with all-city type players the past five or six years, but this year we're going to have to work as a team, we don't have the superstars like we've had in the past. ”
Last Season's Record: 1-15
Coach: Kyle Wilkerson
Players to Watch: Cade Schuft, Trevor Duncan, and Benny Broadway
Expectations: “We're going to be better than we were last year. The guys are working hard and trying to get everyone on the same page,” said Wilkerson.
On First Year as Coach: “The previous coach, Coach St. Andre, has taken over basketball and our field coach Jared Love will be handling the X's and O's. Right now we're trying to jump in with both feet.”
Last Season's Record: 2-10-2
Coach: Russell Melton
Players to Watch: Libbi Lange, Taylor Breed
Expectations: “We hope to be more competitive with the district. We're not at the level to compete with magnets and Byrds. We just want to get better and improve. We have enough people coming back where we should be able to do that.”
Last Season's Record: 19-6; District 1, Division I champs; lost in second round of playoffs
Coach: Walt Peoples