On Jan. 26, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Athletic Department announced that its head coach for women’s soccer, Lance Key, had chosen to walk away from his tenure as head coach. In his three years with the program, he tallied a 25-27-7 overall record, capped off by a disappointing 2021 season that ended with a 6-10-3 record for the Cajuns. He has decided to take his coaching talents to NCAA Division III school Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX.
This move involves some history for Coach Key; from 2004-2015, he was head coach of his alma mater, SCAC school Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. There, he built an incredible program, reaching, according to UL Athletics, a 209-21-17 overall record, including 10 seasons with no conference losses. On top of this, Trinity had, according to UL Lafayette Athletics, “27 student-athletes earning Scholar All-America status under his watch. Four student-athletes went on to earn NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships during his time directing the Trinity program.”
The one team that gave Trinity the toughest time, ironically, was cross-conference rival Hardin-Simmons, who they suffered multiple playoff losses to and managed only a 7-6-4 record against during Key’s tenure. In 2010, Hardin-Simmons beat Trinity 2-1 in the second round of the playoffs and would go on to complete an undefeated season by winning the championship. Likely one of the winningest programs in Division III athletic history, Hardin-Simmons has maintained a 427-68-34 overall record since 1996, including a 225-22-17 run over Coach Key’s Trinity tenure.
All this to say that this climate is much more in Coach Key’s wheelhouse. Key is clearly a brilliant coach but is much better suited to a team with a talent overload than in a conference with considerable parity like the SBC. What will be interesting to observe is Trinity’s performance against Hardin-Simmons going forward, as Trinity knocked out Hardin-Simmons in the first round of the playoffs this past season.
Stepping in for Key is Associate and Goalkeeper Coach Stephen Salas, brought on staff by Key in 2019 and now making his head coaching debut for the Cajuns. Salas has been gaining experience for a head coaching tenure for almost a decade, starting in 2011 as assistant coach for, you guessed it, Hardin-Simmons University. According to UL Lafayette Athletics, in 2012, “His goalkeepers also allowed just eight goals (0.36 GAA) in each season and combined for 33 shutouts as HSU extended its regular-season conference unbeaten streak to a NCAA-record 157 matches.”
With this new shift in leadership will come more staff changes and, hopefully, a culture shift to put more of an effort into the game plans and management. This team absolutely has the talent to succeed in the SEC; it’s just a matter of cohesion, chemistry and timing.