‘Where Are They Now?’ puts the spotlight on former players from Houma-Terrebonne Soccer Association who have furthered their soccer careers beyond Blackhawks and Ladyhawks at the collegiate level.
Grace Champagne is a freshman and forward for University of Louisiana-Lafayette competing in NCAA Division 1 for the 2017-18 season.
HoumaSoccer.com caught up with Grace recently and asked her to tell us about her time with the Ragin’ Cajuns in more detail...
Tell us a little about your early years in soccer.
My first years of soccer in HTSA were filled with memories of my dad, Kevin Champagne, coaching me. I started soccer when I was 3 years old at the YMCA and then went to the HTSA the following year. The first couple of years there I met some of my best friends I will have for a lifetime. During this time, I remember playing in a tournament named Midnight Madness and in that tournament, we painted our faces like cheetahs and spray painted our hair blue. Along with my team, Coach K aka my dad also got his hair spray painted which didn’t come out for a couple of days (will never forget that).
Why play college soccer?
I made the decision to play college to have the experience of playing a collegiate sport. I also wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps and play soccer in college. I always had the dream of playing because everyone talks fondly of their years as a college athlete. Lastly, the opportunity to be able to play a collegiate sport was too good to pass up, it shows all your hard work as a kid is paying off.
Tell us a little about the recruitment process for Ragin’ Cajuns?
During the recruitment process, you must put your name out there and let coaches know you are interested in their school. Coaching staffs look for you to reach out to them to say you are interested and give them a time and place for them to see you. It also never hurt to go to soccer camps at certain colleges to get a feel for the college and meet coaches and players. However, in order to play a college sport, you must have good academic standings. Academics determine a part of your eligibility to play the sport. I decided to play for UL not only because I loved the facilities and the people on the team, I loved the school aspect of everything. I loved the size of school and that it wasn’t too far away from home. The atmosphere of UL is nothing like I have seen before and it’s truly refreshing.
What were your goals when you first joined the Ragin’ Cajuns?
I believe the coaching staff selected me because of my work ethic and my accolades from high school soccer. I walked away from high school soccer being a two-time state champion, two-time state MVP, a four-year district offense MVP, and chosen to play in the All-Star game my senior year. I am a fighter on the field and I don’t back down from challenges which sets me apart from some players. An example of this would be the state championship game when I didn’t stop fighting and scored the winning goal in the last 3 minutes of the second 10 minute overtime. Since I was young, my dad always sat me down to watch professional games so through that I learned to see the field and get a vision for the game. I have a great vision of the field and have decent technical ability. On the other hand, I am mentally tough from high school soccer and playing in high pressures game such as two state championships.
What were your goals when you first joined the Ragin’ Cajuns?
My first goal in college soccer was to get playing time as a freshman which is not something most people are able to do. As I started getting playing time the first couple of games I shifted my goal to building my playing time and scoring a goal. I scored my first collegiate goal the next game.
Tell us a little about how you have grown and developed as a person and as a player during your time at Houma-Terrebonne Soccer Association.
The coaches I have had during my time with HTSA have prepared me for college soccer. They have taught me to be both mentally and physically tough. I have learned how to read the game from coaches telling me what to look for. The coaches I had included John Lapeyre, Matt Ferguson, Phil Amedee and lastly my dad, Kevin Champagne. The best advice I ever had was to not back down from challenges and to play with heart not just your feet. Under the coaching of my dad and Coach Phil I have achieved many things other players strive for. I was able to be named the state’s offensive MVP for division 3 two years in a row. I also won two state championships back to back which most people never accomplish and it’s all due to my coaches. I learned that in order to succeed you have to be motivated and work for what you want. Throughout my time here, college soccer was always a goal from me since I knew my dad played. My biggest influence of the way play would have to come from my dad and us two watching Barcelona play. I enjoyed watched Xavi play and loving the way he passed and the runs he made.
What is your most memorable individual moment from your time with Houma-Terrebonne Soccer Association?
My most memorable moment from my time with the HTSA was when I was about 12 years old and my team won the Gobbler Cup tournament in Houma. In the final game, I had gotten my first yellow card for pushing a girl over without the ball. I will never forget that moment.
Talk us through a typical week in the life of a college soccer player.
The typical week in the life of a college soccer player contains lots of training as well as classes and school work. Practices during the week are often two hours long and on certain days of the week we lift after practices. After every practice, we also have to take an ice bath for 10 minutes. Throughout the week, you must juggle going to class and studying for those classes. My coach also requires all freshman to do 6 hours of study hall so we keep on top of our school work.
What is the best part of playing soccer at college?
The best part of playing college soccer is the camaraderie of the team. You get to meet people and make new friends from all different states. After a few weeks of meeting the girls, you instantly connect and meet people you will forever remember. Playing soccer also gives you many opportunities after college such as jobs. It also gives you connections in order to get jobs.
What is next for you and your own personal development?
The next step in my personal development is to increase my playing time. I also want to better my vision of the game and my technical skills.
What is your ultimate goal, and how important is Ragin’ Cajuns in helping you towards that?
My ultimate goal would be to finish school in 4 years and hopefully go to law school. However, if I get the opportunity to play beyond college soccer, I will probably take that opportunity. I just want to be the best I can be. Another aspiring goal of mine is to be selected for a conference team.
What is your advice to a player from Houma-Terrebonne Soccer Association thinking about playing college soccer?
The advice I would give anyone on choosing whether to play college soccer or not, I say to play soccer. It will lead you to many opportunities such as jobs, connections for jobs and internships, and lastly you will make lifelong friends. Your coach wants what is best for you and will help you along the way. College soccer is better than I could ever expected and I wish everyone could have the experience I am having.