BATON ROUGE – The 2013 season ushers in a new era of women’s soccer in the Southeastern Conference as many of the league’s 14 teams are just one week away from opening preseason training in preparation for what could be another banner year for a conference that has firmly established itself among the NCAA’s elite.
In fact, the SEC ended the 2012 campaign as the No. 2-ranked conference in the NCAA’s own Ratings Percentage Index, trailing only the Atlantic Coast Conference as the premier league in college soccer. That is thanks in large part to the SEC’s addition of Texas A&M and Missouri prior to the 2012 season as arguably the two most successful programs historically in the Big 12 Conference.
Reigning SEC champion Florida and SEC runner-up Texas A&M each led the charge in the postseason by advancing to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Tournament a season ago.
And the 2013 season will be unlike any other in one of the NCAA’s emerging power conferences as the SEC will feature one unified league table for the first time while eliminating the SEC East and SEC West divisions.
“To see how far the SEC has progressed as a conference in our sport in recent years is truly remarkable,” commented LSU head coach Brian Lee. “And to see our program at LSU considered among the SEC’s best year in and year out is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our coaches and players to achieve what we’ve achieved in our time here.
“We look forward to the challenge of competing for championships and postseason recognition each season as we enter this new era of women’s soccer in the Southeastern Conference.”
A closer look at the results shows just how successful the Tigers have been in the SEC championship race under Lee’s direction. Their ninth-year head coach most recently guided the Tigers to four SEC Western Division championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances in a five-year span with their success in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
In the six seasons since winning their first SEC West crown in 2007, the Tigers have claimed three second-place finishes in the final SEC regular season standings while finishing runner-up to Florida in both 2008 and 2009 and runner-up to South Carolina in 2011. With the Gators winning five SEC regular season titles over the past six seasons, the Tigers follow with the second-most top-two finishes in the SEC standings during that span in their three runner-up showings. Georgia and South Carolina own a pair of top-two finishes, while Auburn and Texas A&M have earned one apiece since 2007.
LSU’s four top-four finishes trails only Florida’s six in six seasons, while the Tigers join Florida, Auburn and Tennessee as the only teams to finish among the Top 8 of the final SEC standings in each year since 2007.
The Tigers have also earned their share of SEC success in the postseason with four semifinals appearances in the SEC Tournament while qualifying for the event in each season since 2007. They rank second among their conference rivals with their four trips to the SEC Tournament semifinals, which also includes their first even finals appearance in 2009.
The Tigers have also been a staple in the national rankings in recent years while cracking the Top 25 nationally in each of the major polls. LSU’s climbed as high as No. 9 in 2008, No. 10 in 2009, No. 18 in 2010 and No. 14 in 2011 in the national rankings.
LSU is sure to push for silverware for years to come with an infusion of national and international talent joining the program in the coming years. The Tigers will welcome the SEC’s No. 1-ranked class and the NCAA’s No. 14-ranked class in the final recruiting rankings for the 2013 season according to the website www.AllWhiteKit.com. LSU’s Class of 2014 that will officially sign in February has also been ranked No. 10 in the NCAA and No. 2 in the SEC in the initial recruiting rankings by www.AllWhiteKit.com.
“This is certainly an exciting time for our program and an exciting time for the SEC as a whole,” Lee said. “With the strength of our conference where it is today and where it appears to be headed well into the future, we face a great challenge ahead to win our first SEC championship. That’s why we must identify and recruit the best players in the world to join our squad and help us continue building toward that goal.”
The Tigers are set to report to campus on Tuesday, Aug. 6, with the start of preseason training for the 2013 season set to commence the following day.
They will face Nicholls State in an exhibition game on Friday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m. CT before playing host to in-state rival Louisiana Tech in their regular-season opener on Friday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m. at the LSU Soccer Stadium in Baton Rouge. The 2013 regular season actually kicks off for the Tigers with a four-game homestand as all matches at the LSU Soccer Stadium feature free admission.