Soccer Preview: The Front Line
BATON ROUGE - Providing the offensive spark for LSU's run to its fourth Southeastern Conference Western Division title in the last five seasons and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament a year ago was the emergence of Taryne Boudreau as one of the league's feared strikers. The First-Team All-SEC selection wrapped up her collegiate career as the team's leading scorer with 12 goals and six assists for 30 points after making the transition to the front line in 2011.
Boudreau even stepped up her game in SEC play as the league's leading scorer with nine goals and 22 points in 11 conference matches while guiding the Tigers to a runner-up finish in the final SEC standings with an 8-3 mark and 24 points on the table.
Despite Boudreau's departure following the 2011 season, the Tigers will compete with an experienced front line this fall with the return of senior Carlie Banks, junior Addie Eggleston and sophomore Kaley Blades and their 102 career starts in the purple and gold. They are also the three top returning scorers from last year's squad with a combined nine goals and 33 points in 2011.
Banks is the leader of the group as she opens her final campaign as an LSU Tiger with 60 starts in 67 career appearances for the Tigers over the past three seasons.
A native of Peachtree City, Ga., Banks has tallied 14 goals and 40 points during her three years in Baton Rouge, including career single-season highs with seven goals and 18 points during her rookie campaign in 2009. Banks also proved herself as a facilitator of the offense last fall with a career-high seven assists to rank second on the team.
Eggleston is also a surefire All-SEC candidate as she opens her third season with the club in 2012. The former SEC All-Freshman Team selection is the team's top returning scorer with her career-high four goals as a sophomore a year ago. She is poised to continue her ascent on the SEC scoring charts with her seven goals and 13 assists in two seasons with the Tigers.
Blades looks to return to the form that earned her recognition along with Eggleston as one of the nation's Top 50 recruits for the Class of 2010 after having her true freshman campaign cut short with a season-ending knee injury. Blades bounced back to play in 20 games a season ago while scoring three goals and nine points as a reserve striker.
Danielle Murphy also returns for her junior season after making eight appearances off the bench last fall as both a reserve striker and midfielder, while redshirt freshman Lexi Gibbs returns for her first opportunity to represent the Tigers on the pitch in 2012.
"It's unfair to expect any one player to step up and fill the void that's been left by Taryne with the senior season she had for us a year ago, but we have a very talented group up front that is going to help give us a spark this season," said LSU head coach Brian Lee. "We have tremendous experience returning to our team that will combine with an ultra-talented class coming in that will give us a number of options in the attack going forward."
The Tigers feature one of the SEC's impact newcomers this season as Mexican Under-20 international Fernanda Pina will help fill the void up top left by Boudreau's departure.
One of the most dynamic attacking players in North America to join the NCAA Division I ranks in 2012, Pina has competed as a member of the Mexican Women's National Team system for more than three years. She starred up front and in the midfield for Mexico with appearances at the FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup in 2010 and as a member of the U-20 Mexican Women's National Team in 2012.
Pina burst onto the international stage at the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup while scoring two goals and dishing out one assist for Mexico in her two starts in group play.
The Tigers also welcome one of the top recruits in the Southeast to Baton Rouge this year as Colby Maffei of Tampa, Fla., will provide immediate depth up front as a four-star recruit in the Class of 2012 by TopDrawerSoccer.com. She also earned distinction as the No. 8-ranked prospect in the talent-rich state of Florida as a high school senior.