CENTRAL – The anticipation was bigger than anyone expected it would be.
After she had taken and converted a penalty kick to pad to Central’s comfortable lead over West Feliciana to a 5-1 advantage, coach Victoria Eskola had substituted Raghan Walker out of the game. Walker had been getting marked hard all game, double-marked and hip checked at every opportunity as usual.
Raghan’s goal had come from a shove inside the penalty area.
In the 74th minute, Eskola offered Walker, a junior, the option to go back into the game. Despite holding a late lead and getting roughed up prior, Walker elected to return to the game.
Chloe Bourque immediately sent Walker a through ball, and Walker in turn beat the Saints’ back line and netted another goal, one that turned into a personal milestone.
It was the 100th goal of Walker’s outstanding career.
“I was happy, I was overwhelmed, I wanted to cry, I was shocked,” Walker said. “There were a lot of different emotions. Sometimes you take it for granted but when it happens, you’re so surprised and overcome with different emotions.”
The goal didn’t come at home, but there was a celebration regardless. The match was a Central-West Feliciana doubleheader, with the boys going on before the girls’ match.
When she finally reached the triple-digit goal, the boys’ team burst with excitement and unfurled a banner they had waiting to mark the occasion. Eskola had a spare match ball ready to go so Raghan’s 100th goal would remain a keepsake.
“More people knew than I thought they did,” Walker said. “Going into the game it made me a little nervous to look alive and get that 100th goal. But I had to calm down and focus to try my best in the game and put much thought into it.”
Eskola said: “It’s an incredible thing to witness.”
Nearly half of those goals (49) came in her freshman season, in a standout debut season where Walker was named to the all-state freshman team.
She was also named to the All-District, where she was the co-MVP, along with All-Metro and co-MVP honors on that squad as well.
Walker’s climb to 100 continued her sophomore year with 39 goals in a season where she was selected MVP of her district in her second season.
Walker has 12 goals this season through games of Dec. 13.
“The first game she scored a goal,” Eskola said. “Then the second game she scored two goals, and by the third game she scored three goals. And we’re like ‘oh my god, is she just going to keep scoring?’ And because no one really knew her it was crazy.
“We didn’t know what to do with her,” Eskola said. “As we progressed, teams knew what she was going to do and started to double team her and their primary goal became to shut her down. And that has just opened up opportunities for the rest of my team.”
That standout freshman season put loads of pressure on Walker, but she has grown to become more concerned about her team’s performance instead of her own.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Walker said. “I wanted to come back my sophomore year and score more than that. I didn’t do it, but I ended up being more than happy what I accomplished, knowing that teams knew me now. I knew that they were going to try to man-mark me or do anything to stop me. I had my team supporting me all the way through. I was very happy with the outcome.”
Walker is the first player in Central history to reach the century mark. For the program it represents a step forward to becoming a heavy hitter in the state.
“It’s a big deal,” Eskola said. “You can add up (the best) four or five people in the history of Central soccer excluding the team I have right now, and they didn’t even score 100 combined goals.”
“Going into games, teams may not have respect for us or may look down upon us,” Walker said. “We may not have the history that they have so for me to bring notoriety to my school is amazing.”
Walker is expected to have company in the 100-goal club.
Senior Chloe Bourque recently recorded a hat trick in a win over Zachary and reached 100 goals for her career over the weekend.
“It feels really great to know that Central is on the map now,” Walker said.