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Big cleats to fill

Girls soccer rebuilds after state-finalist team graduates

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Big cleats to fill

During the varsity game, sophomore Caroline Hilliard runs toward the goal. The team ended their season after their game against Byron Nelson on March 29.

During the varsity game, sophomore Caroline Hilliard runs toward the goal. The team ended their season after their game against Byron Nelson on March 29.

Maya Hernandez

During the varsity game, sophomore Caroline Hilliard runs toward the goal. The team ended their season after their game against Byron Nelson on March 29.

Maya Hernandez

Maya Hernandez

During the varsity game, sophomore Caroline Hilliard runs toward the goal. The team ended their season after their game against Byron Nelson on March 29.

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Sweaty and exhausted, the varsity girls soccer team knew the 2018 state championship game wasn’t looking good. Houston Memorial moved so fast and never seemed to tire. When the final buzzer rang, the girls stood together at the edge of the field.

“We were really nervous going into it and we knew Houston Memorial would be a good team,” sophomore Kelly Van Gundy said. “We just kept working till the game was over and it didn’t go our way.”

Even though they had lost, the girls knew that they had worked hard to get there and that second in the state was no small feat.

Head Girls Soccer Coach Chad Hobbs stood on the field with them and remembered the advice other coaches had given him — that very few teams make it to the championship game and some teams never make it there so he should relax, be proud of his team and soak it all in.

Marcus was the one of 128 teams that wanted to win that championship and they made it to final two rounds

This March, the girls had this opportunity again when they made it to playoffs as they have almost every year since the 1990s.

According to sophomore goalie Rachel Bump, North Texas is one of the most competitive areas in the United States for girls soccer. So during their district season the girls faced many tough teams, and they had to practice rigorously to be able to compete and keep up.

In February, they lost against Coppell’s undefeated team and when they had an opportunity to face them again, the girls were ready.

“We wanted to come in and see how we have progressed and use them as a measuring stick,” Hobbs said.

The girls had control in the first half of the game, but two mental errors gave up two goals near the end, letting Coppell pull ahead and secure their victory. Even though the girls had lost, Hobbs was immensely proud of them.

“What I took from the game and what we talked to the girls about the game is ‘this is a team that’s 21-1 and we were right there with them’,” Hobbs said. “It was in my mind validation that we can play with anybody.”

The girls finished their district season with 11 wins, two ties and only a single loss, giving them the second best season in the district. Despite their record, they were eliminated from playoffs early in a 2-0 loss against Byron Nelson.

That struggle is part of what made us strong.”

— Chad Hobbs, coach

“It was kind of deflating and disappointing to lose in the first round,” Van Gundy said.

Part of the reason the girls didn’t advance this year could be attributed to this year’s team being mainly composed of new girls. Last year’s state runner up team was largely made up of seniors who had played together on varsity since their freshman year.

“That core group had been with me for four years,” Hobbs said. “It’s a little different this year because it’s not like we had that group… in that essence, it’s a new team.”
Hobbs said that losing that core group of girls posed a significant challenge to the team and left many of the returning athletes at a loss.

“We graduated so many impactful players last year so I think the mindset of some of the girls this year is ‘how can we play without those girls’,” Hobbs said. “That struggle is part of what made us strong.”

To fill the empty spots on the team, many girls were moved up from junior varsity. Van Gundy said the varsity team had to work to adapt to this new group of girls.

“The returning players didn’t know what to expect. We were losing a group of seniors that led us and taught the younger [athletes],” Van Gundy said. “So going into the year, we were just expecting to come in, work hard and find each other in the new group.”
The girls and Hobbs both attribute their successful district record not only to their hard work and practice, but to their unity as a team and the family environment that they encourage within the group.

“We can all pretty much talk to each other about anything,” Bump said. “Having that kind of cohesion and comradery definitely helps us. We know that we can depend on each other in the game.”
Hoping to go further next year, the girls remain optimistic despite their early elimination this season.
“We know each other a little better and we know how to play with each other and I think that’s something that teams are going to have a hard time beating in the future,” Van Gundy said.

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