It became clear to David Thibodaux head soccer coach Derek Menard early on in the 2019-2020 season that it was shaping up to be special.
The Bulldogs had made the LHSAA playoffs the previous two seasons, but their wins total never reached double digits. They’d also never won a district championship nor had they come out victorious in either of those playoff appearances.
Menard said this season always felt different. He said he could tell the kids were fired up and he knew they were in for a remarkable year, but at times, even he lost sight of what was happening.
“We thought about it at the beginning where we got toward our season-high in wins pretty early,” Menard said, “but we blew past it and didn’t really think about it that much. I have to stop some times and realize that when I am being hard on them in practice and criticizing everything they do, that these guys obliterated our wins record.
David Thibodaux notched 14 wins this season, including a 4-0 playoff win against Buckeye last week. The Bulldogs also won the district championship and in the process, they scored more goals than they ever had and had the highest goal differential in school history.
“We have talked about how much more fun it is to leave a game after a win than leaving a game after a loss,” Menard said. “We had a lot of ties last year and those were disappointing, but getting wins validates the work you do all year.
“There has been a lot of good stuff we are doing this year. We need to be happy about that and not ignore our accomplishments. A lot of what we have been able to do is because of the strength of our senior class.”
Menard said his three senior captains — Hayden Benoit, Jude Thibodeaux and Stanton Sisk — all set the tone for what they’ve been able to accomplish this year.
“To have a guy like Hayden Benoit at goalkeeper is pretty great,” Menard said. “He is a transfer and he had to sit out his sophomore year, but he earned everybody’s respect that year because we just could not score on him in practice.
“Hayden and Jude and Stanton, when I go out to practice, they’ve already started the practice. They’re starting the stretches and the passing drills. They run it.”
Menard said he took the playoff losses the last two seasons pretty hard and getting the playoff win over Buckeye this year was enjoyable. Menard said despite the joy he felt after, he wasn’t stunned by his team’s performance.
“It’s a lot different leaving that playoff game knowing we have another one after,” he said. “We had to schedule another practice and talk to the next coach, and all that stuff was fun, but none of it was surprising. We had that mindset that we were not going to be one and done this year. We expected to win and we wanted to go in and win playoff games.”
The Bulldogs have come a long way from a three-win season right before Menard took over, to on the verge of state quarterfinals appearance. Menard said he is enjoying this ride, but his joy takes a backseat to watch his players succeed. “I had my chance to play in high school,” Menard said. “It’s rewarding and it’s nice when I try a formation and it works, but I am more happy for the guys that went through the dark times in this program. Now they are getting a chance to win.”