Grambling’s best sport over the last 3-4 years? You can make a case for the Lady Tigers soccer program, which plays a first-round match today in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament at Prairie View, Texas.
The Lady Tigers, seeded second, have a rematch of last Friday’s 3-2 win at UAPB. The winner of the 5:30 quarterfinal advances to the 5:30 semifinal Friday against either third-seeded tournament host Prairie View or Southern. The tournament final is at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Prairie View Soccer Complex.
Grambling won the 2018 SWAC regular-season championship and made its second straight appearance in the SWAC Tournament final, but fell short of its first NCAA Tournament appearance. After a semifinal berth in 2019, the 2020 season didn’t happen because of the COVID-19 onslaught.
That pause also included a leadership transition, with new head coach Craig Roberts taking the helm a week before this spring’s season debut. After an understandable erratic start, including a surprising 3-2 homefield loss to Prairie View, the Lady Tigers (6-2-1, 6-1-1) are unbeaten since and have won their last four matches.
On Wednesday, junior striker Kailey Pena was announced as the SWAC’s Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection. She was the league’s top scorer with 13 goals, two in last Friday’s comeback victory, including the game-winner with four minutes left.
Junior midfielder Haylee O’Leary joined her on the SWAC first team. Junior defender Kamaron Powell and freshman midfielder Paula Burillo-Blasco earned second-team All-SWAC honors.
Grambling narrowly missed winning the SWAC regular-season crown. Alabama State scored in overtime last Friday night at Alabama A&M to claim the title. Those teams tied 1-1 at Montgomery, Alabama, on March 7.
GSU is the highest rated SWAC team in the NCAA ratings index used to determine seedings for the NCAA Tournament.
UAPB (4-7, 1-7) provides a solid test in the opening round. By advancing, the Lady Tigers would face either Prairie View (5-3, 5-2) or Southern (2-4, 2-2) in Friday evening’s semifinal round. The semis and final will be streamed on the SWAC Digital Network through SWAC.org.