Andrew Barnes, who was the Head Soccer Coach for both the boys and girls programs at Woodlawn High, was recently inducted into the LHSSCA Hall of Fame. Barnes was the head of the boys program from 2001 through 2019, and led the girls program from 2011 through 2016.
During Barnes’ 18 year career, he has coached over 500 games and won numerous District Championships. Coach Barnes guided the Panthers to 11 playoff appearances, which included four Bi-District finishes, one Regional finish, two Quarterfinal finishes, three Semi-Final finishes, and one Finals appearance.
“When I walked into Mr. McCann’s office, at the old school, I never would have dreamed that I would coach at Woodlawn that long,” remembered Barnes. “I loved my time at Woodlawn. The administration always completely supported me. I was never told ‘no’ by any of the four principals that were there during my time.”
It was during the 2007-2008 season that Coach Barnes led the Woodlawn boys on an historic run to the finals. In the state semi-finals that season, Woodlawn, who was one of the lowest seeds in the playoffs, upset the favorites, Jesuit. This led to a state championship game versus Caddo Magnet.
Although the Panthers fell short and finished runner-up, their run to the finals that year is one of the most well remembered playoff runs of all time.
Coach Barnes has been selected District Coach of the Year seven times, as well as Baton Rouge All Metro Coach of the Year twice. He was also selected to be a coach in the LHSSCA All-Star game three times, twice as an Assistant Coach, and once as Head Coach.
“The soccer program at Woodlawn during my time there was a family,” explained Barnes. “It was a small group of very committed, dedicated people. In my 18 years, I only had four assistant coaches and only four concession workers. They stayed with me for the long haul.”
“I still keep in touch with many of my former players. I still love the phone calls, and even the impromptu visits to my home that last a little too long!”
Coach Barnes is married to Gretchen Barnes. Together they have three children, Jonathan, Emilie, and Jacob. All three of the Barnes children attended Woodlawn High, and of course, played soccer for Coach Barnes.
Current Woodlawn Principal Scott Stevens praised Coach Barnes’ as a coach and member of the Woodlawn family.
“Andrew was exactly what every Athletic Department looks for in a coach. He had the ability to connect with his student-athletes in a way that not many coaches can connect. His players wanted to win for him as much as they wanted to win for themselves. He deserves this recognition as much as anyone that has ever coached at Woodlawn High.”
The Woodlawn High Lady Panther Soccer team were recently recognized with a multitude of post-season awards. The Panthers placed nine players on the Division II District 4 All-District teams.
Junior Seema Kawji is now a three time All-District player for the Lady Panthers.
Junior forward Seema Kawji led the Panthers with ten goals scored this season. She returned to her forward position this year, and was named All-District for the third straight season. Kawji has been named to the first team for two straight seasons. She has consistently been near the top of the Lady Panthers’ goal production during her time with Woodlawn.
Carolina Alvarado returned to the Lady Panthers for her third season as well. As a sophomore, she was named to the District 4 First Team as a defensive midfielder. This season, Alvarado moved to the midfield position, and the move paid dividends for the Lady Panthers. Alvarado was able to add pressure to opposing defenses, scoring four goals on the season, which placed her second on the team in goals scored. For the second consecutive year, she was named to the District First Team.
Sophomore Layla Shelton was a breakout performer for this year’s Lady Panther soccer team. The sophomore forward broke into the starting lineup this season after being a reserve at defensive midfield last year. Shelton’s quickness was her biggest asset as she attacked defenses and was able to score her first career goal. She was also named to the Division II District 4 First Team.
The final Lady Panther selected to the first team was Marie Sierra. Sierra, who could not compete her freshman year due to an injury, made the most of her first year on the pitch. The sophomore stepped into a starting position with the Lady Panthers as a center midfielder. Sierra’s athletic ability was as evident in soccer as it is in the other sports she participates in.
The four Lady Panthers first-team players not only excelled on the field this season; the girls also combined for an average 4.43 GPA.
Junior Mikaela Mattix was named to the All-District team this season.
Outside of the four first team players, the Lady Panthers had five players named to the District Second Team. Wings Kaitlyn Arceneaux, Victorine Kasangandjo, and Mikaela Mattix joined defenders Charlize Garcia Blanco and Andrea Rodriguez on the team.
The Lady Panthers also had two seniors who stood out both on and off the field. Kasangandjo and goalie Julyana Espinal brought a wealth of experience and dedication to the program. Both players excelled in the classroom, carrying a combined 3.7 GPA. The two seniors have been accepted into multiple universities and will surely continue to be leaders in their future.
While the final record for the Lady Panthers did not meet their expectations, the girls showed heart and determination this season. They are eager to continue growing their team, with both the players that will return for the 2021-2022 season, and any new players that would like to join the program.
The goal for the program is to focus on our studies, team building, a building a culture of healthy habits, dedication, and teamwork.
A year removed from a final regular season record of 15-5-1 and a semifinal berth, the Panther soccer team is looking to return to its perineal playoff contender status. The Panthers suffered through a 5-13-1 record during the 2019-2020 season, but look to bounce back during the 2020-2021 season.
Head Coach Orlando Cervantes may be new to high school soccer in Louisiana, but he is not new to the sport of soccer. Coach Cervantes is an experienced coach who has worked with youth, college and professional soccer players throughout his career. Throughout his career, he has coached multiple NCAA and NAIA All-Americans, MLS players, Women’s Professional Soccer players and United States National Team players.
“Because this is my first time coaching in Louisiana high school soccer, I am excited to get the season started and I am looking forward to all of our district games. This is a tremendous group of kids that are hard-working and willing to learn. We had a late start to the season so are behind all other schools. I feel this team is beginning to come together and will continue to as the season progresses.”
A solid core group of returning players leads the way for Woodlawn this year. Seniors Rui-James Pereira and Hamza Saad will team up with Sophomores Cody Stevens, Wilson Ventura Lopez, and Aiden Skillman to provide experience to the Panthers.
Mix that experience with Freshmen newcomers Nelson Reyes, Oscar Paloblanco, Santiago Garcia and Junior transfer Joao De Sousa Oliveira, and the Panthers plan to be a force to reckon with in 2020-2021.
Along with expected success in the varsity program, Coach Cervantes understands the importance of growing the JV program to build for the future.
“We would like to increase the number of athletes participating in soccer and create a strong JV program.”
Student-athletes interested in joining the soccer program can reach out to Coach Cervantes at [email protected]
Carolina Alvarado returns as an All-District perfomer.
The Lady Panther Soccer team reached heights over the past two seasons that have not been seen in the program for many years. However, the Lady Panther knew that success would be difficult to duplicate after the losses the program has seen going into the 2020-2021 season. With half of their season behind them, the Lady Panthers are looking to find their stride in the second half of the season.
Gone from the past two seasons are Head Coach Chris Hampton. Scarlet Martinez, the two-time Division II, District IV MVP, has graduated. Five other All-District players are no longer with the Lady Panthers.
New Head Coach Luis Mendoza brings a wealth of coaching experience to the program. Coach Mendoza will look to Senior Goalkeeper Julyana Espinal to step up and replace graduating All-District Goalkeeper Tionna Hodges. Returning Juniors Seema Kawji and Carolina Alvarado were both All-District players last season. The three returning players will try to lead the Lady Panthers through their difficult schedule in the second half of the season.
Coach Mendoza will also look for three Sophomores to make significant improvements to their game in order to contribute to the Lady Panthers season. Emma Carter, Layla Shelton, and Marie Sierra will have to grow up quickly on the pitch this season.
All-District Goalkeeper Tionna Hodges is being replaced by Julyana Espinal.
The Lady Panthers have three home games left. Woodlawn is scheduled to host Brusly (December 18, 2020), De La Salle (January 11, 2021), and Livonia (January 25, 2021). The Lady Panthers will travel for both of their District matchups. They will travel to Plaquemine on January 19 for a rematch of their season opening match, in which the Lady Panthers defeated the Lady Green Devils by the score of 8-0.
The Lady Panthers will travel to Liberty on January 21. That match is set for a 3:30 pm kickoff and will likely determine the District Champion.
With a semifinal match up on the line, the Panthers were able to get off to a fast start on the road. Woodlawn applied pressure on Neville from the start of the match, with close early scoring opportunities by Ray Sierra and Christopher Enamorado.
The Panthers earned a penalty kick in the 22nd minute when Cody Stevenson received a long ball in the box, made a quick move, and was fouled. Jacob Barnes capitalized from the spot and put the Panthers up 1-0 on the penalty kick.
Elijah Mallory and Jakobie Davis battle a Neville player for the ball in the Panthers quarterfinal victory.
With more chances on goal and great saves by Jakarie Davis, the Panthers found themselves having a throw in deep in Neville territory. Barnes took the throw and with an athletic header by Jakobie Davis, Woodlawn found the back of the net again. With only three minutes to play in the first half, the Panthers led the Tiger 2 scores to none.
“I knew I would have an opportunity to score on a throw in or corner,” Davis stated. “Jacob does great finding me on these set pieces, and I just finished the job.”
Coming out of the second half, the Panthers defense continued to hold strong. Neville scored a late goal, however it was not enough for the Tigers. The Panthers held on to advance to the State Semifinals and will face Lakeshore Saturday at 3:30 in Mandeville.