Heading into the new year, when the northwest Louisiana soccer season begins heating up, the Captain Shreve girls are in an unfamiliar situation.
The Lady Gators (16-0) are undefeated, rated No. 1 in the state in the power ratings and have set themselves up as the team to beat over the next month. There aren’t a lot of secrets for the success.
“Our girls are best friends and they would run through a brick wall or throw themselves on a hand grenade for each other,” coach Erik Lane said. “There are zero egos.”
Among the key contributors is Emma Bradford, who leads the team with 20 goals in just 13 games. The forward has missed three games with a hamstring injury, but is expected back for the Jan. 5 contest against West Monroe
Emily Moffett has 16 goals and then there’s Brooklyn Lattier with a team-high 21 assists.
One of the most dangerous Lady Gators is junior Willow Snider, a technically skilled, two-footed athlete who can play anywhere on the pitch, according to Lane.
“Willow is also the best athlete on the field no matter who we play,” Lane said. “Her pace, physicality and ball skills make her very difficult to beat one-on-one. She works hard at training and is always one of our most fit players.”
Snider’s versatility was evident in Shreve’s blowout 6-0 victory over Natchitoches Central before the holidays when Lane’s two starting forwards were out. She scored three goals with an assist on another in just one half of play. And Snider has played every minute of the season.
Lane said his talented club is “a highly effective counterattacking oriented team.”
“We are able to play in a more relaxed, possession-oriented way when we need to because of Willow’s calming influence in the back,” he said. “She can clear with either foot, find a penetrating pass to start an attacking movement or can take players on successfully though she is rarely in a position to do so because of her position and our style of play.”
Snider’s skill as a center back allows Shreve to play with three center backs instead of a more traditional four-back set.
“Though we do play with four when it makes sense to do so,” Lane said.
Snider was one of just three Louisiana girls selected to the United Soccer Coaches All-Southwest USA High School Team as a sophomore.
“Willow absolutely has what is needed to be successful at a Division I, mid-major type program,” Lane said.
Meanwhile, the Lady Gators have had just four players miss games for quarantine issues and they’ve kept injuries to a minimum, except for Maddie Aubrey who is out for the year with a knee injury.
“Defensively, we have been rock solid. We have allowed seven goals in 16 games with 10 shutouts,” Lane said. “Emily Watts (goalkeepeer), Snider, Isabella Hamilton, Reagan Titus and Laney Fouts have done a great job in the back for us.”
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