Josie Studer and Sophie Fijneman made visits to Ruston with the prospect of playing soccer at Louisiana Tech.
For Studer, it was a flight from North Carolina in 2017. For Fijneman, it was a long trek from the Netherlands in 2018.
Despite being from different parts of the world and visiting at different times, the two experienced the same feelings about the stopover in north Louisiana.
“I loved it,” expressed Studer. “The team was so humble and so kind. Seeing how proud the players were of the field they had, seeing how the program had grown, was incredible.”
“It was very nice,” said Fijneman. “During the visit, I met Carlotta [Cartelli]. She showed me everything. We went to a basketball game. She took me to the field and they were all so very proud of it.”
Appreciation was a common value shared within the LA Tech Soccer program.
Established in 2004, the program called three different places – Lady Techster Soccer Field across from the Lambright Center, Joe Aillet Stadium and Ruston Junior High School – temporary homes before setting down permanent roots at the Lady Techster Soccer Complex along Alabama Avenue in 2009.
Over the next 10 years, the facility was upgraded. Whether it was new signage, new lights, new drainage system or a new sprinkler system, the home was constantly getting renovated, and the players developed more and more of an appreciation for what they had and what they were a part of.
Studer and Fijneman wanted to be the next players in line to share in this feeling and create their own memories at the Lady Techster Soccer Complex. Then came an EF3 tornado in the early morning hours on April 25, 2019.
The twister that ripped through Louisiana Tech and the city of Ruston altered their plans of playing on that decade-old pitch, but it did not alter their plans of being Lady Techsters.
“We had none,” said Studer and Fijneman who were freshmen that fall. “We wanted to be here.”
It was year No. 16 for the program, but in a way it was back to square one … back to borrowing facilities.
The two battled through fall camp, getting to know the team and getting acclimated to the heat. They battled playing 13 road games. And they battled playing on two different “home” pitches.
“Our first home game we played at Ruston Junior High,” said Studer. “It was long grass, very difficult to pass the ball. Then we played the rest at Ruston High on turf where the ball rolled quick, like playing on concrete.”
While both said complaining was an afterthought for the team with not having a home field as freshmen, they admitted fatigue set in during this past season as sophomores … a global pandemic, a reshuffling of the schedule and another new temporary field to play home matches.
“Everybody fought,” said Fijneman. “We were seeing softball and baseball play at their new facilities and we wanted so bad for our home to be ready.”
“Playing in the spring with all the rain, the field was constantly soaked,” said Studer. “It was like running through mud sometimes. A lot of practices and games, we did not know if the field would be playable. It was hard.”
Ultimately, it was the closeness of the team that kept Studer and Fijneman at LA Tech … and the opportunity to one day call a home field a true home.
“My dad is big on social media, he would see the new pictures of the facility first and show me,” said Fijneman. “Every time new pictures were posted, we were looking.”
“I was glued to my phone,” said Studer. “Every new photo, I was zooming in trying to see the details. I would show my parents every time a new photo was posted.”
Studer arrived in Ruston on July 26. Fijneman a couple days later on July 28.
But, it was not until August 2 when the juniors, along with the rest of the team, got to walk inside the Origin Bank Softball/Soccer Complex and walk out onto Robert Mack Caruthers Field for the very first time.
“It was emotional,” said Studer. “I was at a loss for words in the locker room. I had so many expectations, wondering what it was going to look like, and then getting here and seeing it was overwhelming. We were home. A place we can build memories at.”
“When we were getting ready in the locker room for our photo shoot, we had the music going and it was like a game day feel,” said Fijneman. “I am counting down the days to our first home match. It is going to be incredible.”
When LA Tech takes on East Texas Baptist on August 20, it will be 1,029 days since the last time the Lady Techsters played a home soccer match on campus.
Two years, nine months and 25 days.
“I am especially grateful to the Cutt family and their donation to the facility,” said Studer. “It really is full circle. I remember the team being so appreciative of what they had when I visited here and how the program had grown. Now here we are, about to have people we love come out and watch us play on our new field. This is what you dream of.”
PHOTO: Courtesy LA Tech Strategic Communications.
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