Soccer Season Preview: The Strikers
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 1 of 4 of our “LSU Soccer Season Preview” series features a talented group of strikers leading the line in 2014.
BATON ROUGE – Fans turning out to the LSU Soccer Stadium this fall will be treated to an LSU Tiger team featuring a dynamic attack that looks to fire the squad into SEC title contention in 2014.
With All-SEC striker and Canadian international Summer Clarke leading the line that will also feature All-SEC hopeful Fernanda Pina and five-star recruit Jorian Baucom, LSU’s attack boasts a world-class front line that will pack a devastating punch for opposing defenses across the SEC and NCAA for many years to come.
Clarke returns as the team’s leading scorer from a season ago as she turned in one of the most prolific rookie seasons in the program’s history, scoring 10 goals and serving up three assists to claim Second-Team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2013. Clarke was also a Freshman All-American as a Soccer America Second-Team All-Freshman and TopDrawerSoccer.com Freshman Best XI Second Team selection.
It was a rookie season that delivered on the promise that saw Clarke join the program as a heralded Class of 2013 recruit and rising star in the Canadian Women’s National Team system.
A native of Richmond, British Columbia, Clarke was the leading scorer for the Canada’s U-17 Women’s National Team in 2012 as she led her country to the quarterfinals at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup held in Azerbaijan. She has also spent time training with Canada’s U-20 and senior squads during her brief stint at LSU.
Clarke arrived on the national stage early in the SEC season a season ago when she scored five of LSU’s seven goals in its weekend road sweep at Arkansas and Alabama to propel the squad to a school-record six-game unbeaten streak at 5-0-1 to open conference play.
Clarke scored her first career hat trick with the Tigers in a 5-3 win over the Razorbacks in Fayetteville before scoring both goals in LSU’s 2-1 extra time win over the Crimson Tide to make her mark as one of the SEC’s top young stars in her debut season. It was a weekend performance that earned Clarke selections as TopDrawerSoccer.com Women’s National Player of the Week and SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
Comfortable playing through the middle as a single striker or on either side of the field in a multiple-front formation, Clarke will provide the pace and precision to Baucom’s power as they will complement each other in forging a prolific strike partnership that Tiger fans will enjoy for years to come.
A native of Scottsdale, Arizona, Baucom joins the LSU program as a five-star recruit and the No. 13-ranked recruit nationally by TopDrawerSoccer.com in the wake of a brilliant prep career as a record-setting goal scorer at Pinnacle High School. That’s where Baucom led her team to Arizona state championships in 2011 and 2014, which includes scoring a historic hat trick in the state final as a freshman.
But it was in national competition where Baucom earned her reputation as one of the top striker recruits in the United States as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team Player Pool from the U-14 through the U-18 levels dating back to the 2010 season. She is also a veteran of the Region IV Olympic Development Program Team during her youth career.
Recruited by many of the NCAA’s premier programs from across the country, Baucom is a welcomed addition as the third-ranked forward recruit in the United States to join the NCAA ranks this season.
LSU’s front line will also feature a bit of flair this season as Pina returns among the more experienced members of the squad while plying her trade as a wide forward and wing midfielder during her stint in Baton Rouge over the past two years. She replicated her freshman form as a sophomore a year ago while scoring four goals in each of her two seasons with the Tigers in 2012 and 2013. Pina has appeared in all 41 games to this point of her career while making 27 starts as an LSU Tiger.
Pina is looking to carry the momentum of an outstanding spring and summer into the fall season as she spent much of the offseason training with the senior Mexican Women’s National Team. The Tigers will surely rely on that level of experience to help lead the line once again when the 2014 collegiate season kicks off on Friday with a home match against the Troy Trojans.
Also making her return to the squad in 2014 is Prairieville, Louisiana, native and Dutchtown High School product Lexi Gibbs, a forward who earned her first collegiate experience with 12 appearances for the Tigers a year ago. Gibbs even scored her first career goal in LSU’s 6-0 shutout of Louisiana-Monroe during the non-conference season, and earned her first career start on the road at Kentucky late in the SEC campaign.
“We’re excited about the potential that this front line will provide our attack this season,” said LSU Head Coach Brian Lee. “We believe we’ll be much more dynamic going forward for the foreseeable future, and having players like Summer Clarke, Fernanda Pina and Lexi Gibbs coming back with Jorian Baucom joining us for the first time will be a big reason why.”