September 1, 1997
By early August, the pieces were falling into place for the beginning of the second season of the Tulane women's soccer team--the only varsity soccer program on campus. Head coach Carla DeSantis and associate head coach Mary Howard had an impressive recruitment class of eight incoming players on the roster and 12 returning students from the first season. They also had one season under their belt, with a record of 5-1 against other first-year programs and an overall record of 7-12 in the regular season. They even had a place to play.
This year's Green Wave soccer team will challenge its visitors on the soccer fields in the Riverview section of Audubon Park, commonly referred to as "the Fly." "It's a wonderful site," says DeSantis of the part of the park that sits between the Audubon Zoo and the river. "A local soccer club called the Carrollton Boosters has rebuilt three or four fields in partnership with the Audubon Institute and we'll rent the facilities from them. We plan to play the majority of our home games there this year and hope that the field will be the permanent home for women's soccer at Tulane."
Last year, the team played some home games on the University Center quad on the uptown campus with the remaining games played at City Park. The field on the Fly offers the best of both worlds--a well-maintained field close to campus, DeSantis says. And on that field this year will play a vastly more seasoned Tulane team, says Howard.
"Any time you start a program, even when you have juniors who were club players and freshman walk-ons, they are essentially all freshmen. They don't know what to expect from a varsity-level program," she says. "Our returning students now know what we expect of them in terms of attitude and work ethic so they'll set the tone for the freshmen when they come in."
DeSantis agrees that maintaining a varsity-level mentality is crucial. "New kids can come in and fall into a system and understand how things work. Instead of worrying whether everybody is on the same page, we can start worrying about soccer."
The team arrived on campus Aug. 11 and began practicing on Aug. 13. Its first scrimmage was against McNeese State on Aug. 23 and it kicked off its regular season at the LSU tournament against Arkansas-Little Rock on Aug 29. (Scores were not available at press time.) The new players hail from across the country--California, New York, Massachusetts and Texas. The team also welcomes its first Louisiana players this season: Sophia Savvaitles from Metairie and Haleigh Lyons from Lake Charles.
Another challenge of a young team is dealing with the evolving roles of individual players, Howard says. "When you have a recruiting class that comes in and elevates the level of the program, someone who played 90 minutes of every single game last year may only play 20 minutes this year. Her role has changed," she says. "It's a challenge to let every player know that they're important no matter what their role is."
Two students with key roles in the program are seniors Katie Dunne and Christie Camelio, the co-captains of the team. Although both students came to Tulane before the varsity program was in existence, they have devoted themselves to the team, DeSantis says, and will both receive athletic scholarships for their senior years.
The two coaches say they are convinced that the team can be popular at Tulane and can do well in Conference USA. "If the university can embrace the sport, I think we can be very successful," DeSantis says. "We have a young conference that we can do well in, and we can make an impact on Division I women's soccer on a national scale. We had a very good schedule last year for a first-year program. We didn't shy away and try to water down our schedule. We haven't done that this year, either."
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