Monday August 21st 2017, Burns Park at Central Baptist College, saw the return of the Louisiana State University Shreveport Pilots, after a five-year hiatus. Newly installed head coach Philip Bohn, (Previously of Kansas Wesleyan University) had plenty of optimism heading into the new season, with recruits coming in the form of NCAA D1 transfers, Academy players from the UK, flair from South America and a splash of home-grown American for good measure.
Bohn, had plenty to be optimistic about, as he saw his charges complete their first four games without conceding a goal and scoring an impressive fourteen (14) in the process. Four wins from four, including a 1-0 away win at Belhaven University, a previous NAIA National Champion, put the Pilots in a great position heading into their biggest game of the season. Thanks to the interruption of Hurricane Irma, the Pilots had a game against Keiser University cancelled and instead replaced with a daunting task to then ranked #2 William Carey University (Currently #1 and 17-0-0 on the season).
Trading blows for the majority of the contest, William Carey’s eventual match winner Joaquin Ruiz Cabello downed the Pilots, and a late Ben Whalley goal ensured LSUS would leave Hattiesburg, MS empty handed, but not without the experience to know they could compete with the very best the NAIA has to offer.
Two wins later at home to Doane University (3-0) and away to Hendrix College (0-4) LSUS arrived at their rival game with Louisiana State University of Alexandria in good spirits with a 6-1 seasonal record to boot. Having only conceded the two goals at #2 WCU, the defence of LSUS had been pivotal. A heart-breaking 1-0 overtime defeat in Alexandria meant LSUS would start conference play with a defeat. A tough defeat to take, and it proved too much to shake off as the Pilots hosted the University of Houston – Victoria in their next match losing 2-0.
Over the course of the next eight matches including seven conference ties, LSUS would go 6-2-0 and 5-2-0 in conference play, netting 26 goals and conceding just 6. The highlight of this run was the 4-0 rout away to then conference #2 Houston-Tillotson University, which set up a titanic-size battle, in what would later be their final game of the season, against Our Lady of the Lake University.
Knowing a win would punch their ticket to the Red River Athletic Conference tournament LSUS gave everything but came up just short, dropping an agonising game 1-0, despite outshooting their opponents 7-1 on frame. Finishing the season with a 12-6 record, gives LSUS a great platform to build on, and cause for excitement in Shreveport for the 2018 season. Graduating just one player from this group of players allows the Pilots, with a few additions in some key areas, to compete for conference titles and on the national stage in the years to come.
SSU had an added interest invested into the Pilots this season as our very own Zac Gunaratnam-Bailey from Oxford, England was snapped up by coach Bohn in the summer 17. Taking a similar path to the Pilots season, Zac’s personal season started very brightly scoring in his first contest. However, a devastating knee injury plagued him throughout the season, continually playing and training through the pain barrier in an attempt to leave his mark on his freshman season. Zac will use the Spring season to get back to full health and then look to play in the PDL in the summer of 2018, in preparation for an all-out assault on the 2018 season.
Plenty of optimism around the LSUS programme and everyone at SSU would like to congratulate the Pilot’s on a fantastic opening season!