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Soccer: Ragin' Cajuns Eight For Eight - Whitney Taggart
With eight home matches and eight seniors on the 2017 squad, RaginCajuns.com will be profiling each senior heading into home weekends. This weekend senior Whitney Taggart will be featured.
LAFAYETTE – Leadership is earned not given. The great leaders know this and they lead by example, from the front and on the field with actions not words.
Louisiana senior midfielder Whitney Taggart follows those rules of leadership, and as a captain on the 2017 squad she practices what she preaches with actions on the pitch, making it easy for her fellow Cajuns to head into battle with the confidence that when Taggart says she'll be there, she's going to be there.
"I like to lead on the field and by example," said Taggart. "I've always worked hard and when the team sees the seniors and our captains working hard it motivates them to work harder. And this year we've got a team that wants to work hard for each other and we've got good chemistry."
Louisiana head coach Scot Wieland knows that he has a leader on the field in one of his captains, and he's seen her grow over her time as a Cajuns player.
"Whitney has been a consistent player for her entire time here at Louisiana," said Wieland. "She's always shown up and worked hard and because of that she's been an example for our players to follow for over three years. It's why she is a respected player by her peers."
Taggart's sense of leading by example with hard work comes from a family background of successful athletes.
Hailing from Centennial, Colorado, Taggart's father, older brother and sister all played ice hockey. And that toughness, from a sport that demands toughness, was ingrained in her from the start.
But for Taggart ice hockey wasn't the sport she was interested in getting into, looking for a different route and a chance to separate herself from her siblings she began playing soccer.
"I tried ice hockey and I just didn't like it," said Taggart. "Soccer was a sport that just stuck for me, it also helped that I was better at it then my siblings, giving me a competitive edge over them when we played.
"The fact that it was different then what my siblings were doing, made it even better. My dad loves the game and since he never coached me in soccer, he coached ice hockey and my siblings along with that, it meant that he could come out and watch me play and enjoy watching me on the field which is great."
With soccer being her sport in a big sports family, "My older brother is a professional golfer," said Taggart. "And my sister just finished four years of ice hockey along with my younger brother just leaving to play golf in college." She was ready to make an impact of her own on a Division I program.
She decided to look outside of Colorado, "I wanted to get away from the cold of Colorado," and when she came across Lafayette it was love at first sight.
"I committed right when I got down here, and I really liked it," said Taggart. "I enjoyed the warmth of the south. The school, to me is perfect it's not too big and it's not too small, which I like.
"It was a program that was developing with all new stuff coming and that intrigued me a bit. It's not a massive school, but it's big enough and competitive enough that you know you're playing at the Division I level."
Once a member of the Ragin' Cajuns Taggart set out to install her legacy and grow her skills on the pitch.
During the past three seasons her time on the field has increased each season, while playing both offensive and defensive midfield showcasing her ability to adjust to wherever coach Wieland needs her to be, the sign of a leader.
"Whitney reads the game well and has a composure about her in the middle," said Wieland. "Her size and physical play makes her a perfect fit for that spot as she is a great ball winner and covers that space very well.
"Whitney also is someone that can always be relied on to stay on the field for most of the game if not all which provides a necessary stability."
So far, she's started a total of 17 games and logged over 2,000 minutes in her three seasons here at Louisiana. Taggart was asked to play the role of defensive midfielder during her freshman and sophomore seasons, but this past season (2016) she was asked to adjust her game to the offensive side.
During the 2016 season she started seven games and scored four goals, three of which were game-winners, putting 13 of her 23 shots on goal. Including taking a penalty kick, against Georgia State on Sep. 16, that she smoked past the Panther keeper to help the Cajuns to a 1-1 draw.
That experience of being both offensive and defensive has helped her become a more rounded player for the Cajuns.
"Having played a more attacking mid in the past," said Taggart. "It helps me to know what our attacking mids are looking for and so if I give them the ball I know it's going to be a quick decision that they're going to make and I know how to get myself in position to react to what they're going to do next since I played there before."
That attacking position put her in a spot where she could jump on the winning goal for what has been the biggest win for the Cajuns over the past few seasons.
On Oct. 9, 2016, the Cajuns travelled to Mobile, Alabama to take on the eventual three-time Sun Belt Conference Champions, South Alabama Panthers. In that game, the Cajuns went back and forth with the Panthers and with the score at 2-1 Louisiana got what became the game-winner from no other than Taggart herself.
"I took a throw in from Ashleigh Cade," said Taggart. "It was one that she just flicked my way, and I finished it on the back post for what turned out to be the winning goal.
"The last 20 minutes of that game we were man-marking and honestly I think it might've been the most tired I've ever been in a game. But it was a great game and a great moment for me and the team."
It was another example of Taggart leading from the front, producing results but not letting herself sit on that goal, making sure that she helped her teammates maintain their work ethic throughout the game to get the Cajuns the win.
The 3-2 win was the highlight of that season, and for Taggart herself since she's been at Louisiana it was a moment she'll never forget. "It's one of my favorite moments here, beating South Alabama on the road," said Taggart. "It was a great win for us and it's something that we'll always remember."
This season she's leading the team as a holding midfielder, piecing together all her experience to be the best she can be for her teammates. It's a spot that she feels most comfortable in and being the leader that she is, enjoys making things happen for her fellow Cajuns.
"I'm enjoying playing at the holding mid since I can attack, but I don't feel as though I need to," said Taggart. "I'd rather distribute the ball, and at the end of the season I'd be happy to have more assists than goals.
"It's not just about the next play but reading the game as a whole, and I feel like I do that well. It's nice that I can attack when I need to, but I can also stay in my little box and do work there."
Through the 2017 season, the Cajuns know that they can look out on the field and see Taggart leading by example.
"Composure in the heat of the moment is critical for a leader because things aren't always going to go your way," said Wieland. "In a 90-minute game, Whitney doesn't get
rattled and her teammates see that."
That composure is what Taggart wants her teammates to see and its part of the legacy of hard work and leadership that Taggart wants to leave here at Louisiana.
"I want to leave a legacy here that I was that one girl that played to the best of her ability," said Taggart. "I want coach to use me as an example going forward, to say to his future teams that we had this one girl, Whitney, who we could move around and play in any position.
"And she would figure out a way to get it done. I'd like to be remembered as someone who got down and worked."
Leadership can only be achieved from the front, and Taggart has made sure to be a leader of action not words for her teammates to get behind. And after she graduates from Louisiana her example will still be here, up front for future Cajuns to learn from and follow.
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