The LSU Soccer team will kick off its 2014 season on Friday night when it plays host to the Troy Trojans with kickoff set for 7 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium in Baton Rouge. As we look ahead to the start of a new season, LSUsports.net will preview each position in the squad to give Tiger fans a glimpse of what to expect when seeing the team in action. Part 3 of 4 of our “LSU Soccer Season Preview” series features a youthful group of defenders that will look to keep LSU’s opponents off the scoreboard in 2014.
BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers return an All-SEC player at each level of the pitch as they continue their preparations for the 2014 season, and the back line will be no exception as New Zealand international Megan Lee returns to lead a youthful defense that looks to stifle opposing attacks this fall.
It was a slow start to Lee’s collegiate career as she missed the first seven games of the 2013 season while recovering from a severe ankle injury suffered in preseason training. But Lee bounced back in a big way as she made her debut with the Tigers in their non-conference finale at Rice in late September and never looked back in what proved to be an All-SEC rookie campaign.
Lee made 11 starts in 12 appearances in her debut season with the Tigers in 2013 while she was a catalyst in LSU’s school-record six-game unbeaten streak to open SEC play. LSU raced out to an unbeaten 5-0-1 mark for 16 points to sit atop the SEC table at the midway point of the league season.
A product of the New Zealand Women’s National Team system at the Under-17 and Under-20 levels, Lee was called into action with New Zealand’s senior squad for the first time in her career late in the 2013 season as she joined the Football Ferns in their two-match series against the world’s No. 1-ranked United States in late October.
Lee became just the second Tiger in program history to earn an international cap at the senior level when she featured as a late defensive substitution at left back in New Zealand’s 1-1 draw against the United States in their series finale at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 30 of last year.
Lee has since led New Zealand on a historic run at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup this month as the Junior Football Ferns became the first age group team in their nation’s history to advance to the knockout rounds of a FIFA tournament. She even scored her first career World Cup goal and was named “Player of the Match” in New Zealand’s 3-0 shutout of Costa Rica in their final group game to clinch the second spot in Group D for a berth into the quarterfinal round where they fell to Nigeria.
While emerging as one of the top young left backs in the SEC and NCAA with her efforts in 2013, Lee was honored as a Second-Team All-SEC performer by the SEC’s head coaches. She was also one of the top rookies in all of women’s college soccer as a member of the TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Freshman Best XI Second Team following the campaign.
Alongside Lee, two other Tigers return to the squad with starting experience as they hope to earn their spot in the playing rotation once again with Gracie Campbell and Tori Sample lining up in defense again this fall.
A native of nearby Denham Springs, Louisiana, Campbell made 20 appearances with 13 starts in her debut season with the Tigers a year ago, while seeing action as a central defender, left back and defensive midfielder during the 2013 campaign. She played primarily in midfield during the SEC season, but will slot back in defense as she prepares for her sophomore season.
Sample saw her 2013 season cut short after only eight games when she suffered a torn ACL in LSU’s non-conference finale at Rice, and she works to regain the form that earned her a starting role in central defense for each of the team’s eight non-conference games a year ago. The highlight of Sample’s sophomore season was her defensive effort in a 1-0 shutout of the 13th-ranked USC Trojans played on Sept. 8 that earned her a spot on the Minnesota Gold Classic All-Tournament Team.
There is no doubt that the Tigers will rely on youth to round out their defensive lineup and also provide the team with much needed depth across the back line this year. But with its youth comes much experience with Canadian U-20 standout Jordane Carvery, England U-19 veteran Ella Williams, Texas native Alexis Urch and junior college transfer Emma Meckfessel headlining LSU’s recruiting Class of 2014.
A native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Carvery is one of Canada’s top young center backs as a veteran of her country’s U-17 and U-20 squads. She has arrived on campus this week after competing for Canada’s U-20 squad at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup where the host nation advanced to the quarterfinal round.
Urch was a Top 100 national recruit out of Round Rock, Texas, where she was the No. 55-ranked prep recruit in the United States by TopDrawerSoccer.com. Meckfessel, who comes from Point Reyes Station, California, transferred into the LSU program in the summer following a two-year stint at the City College of San Francisco where she earned all-conference honors as a central defender.
Williams was a late addition to LSU’s No. 7-ranked recruiting class nationally as she inked a National Letter of Intent in June with an impressive resume as an England youth international. The Leatherhead, Surrey, native is a former captain of England’s U-15 national team before being called up to the U-17 and U-19 squads ahead of her arrival at LSU.