When Southlake Carroll takes the field Friday against San Antonio Johnson in a Class 5A state semifinal, none of the girls on the field will have any previous Texas high school state tournament experience from which to draw.
The last Dragons team to get this far was the 2008 squad that won a title.
One player on this team, however, does already have a state championship to her credit. Defender Taylor Valentine won a state club championship last year in Florida, before she moved to Southlake.
She wears her ring to practice, and shes had some interesting things to say about our teams commitment and mindset, coach Matt Colvin said. Some things that we really needed to change, and that was great to hear her say that.
Although Valentine was a newcomer, other Dragons players were quick to seek out and heed the wisdom she had learned from her experiences.
Something that she noticed in her team that won state [in Florida] was how much they all wanted it and how much they were willing to work for it, junior Elise Landers said. I think thats one thing our team has demonstrated throughout the season.
Valentines résumé doesnt only include a state championship triumph, but also a heartbreaking loss. As a freshman at Bartram Trail High School in Jacksonville, Fla., she was part of a team that lost via penalty kicks in a 2010 Class 4A high school state championship game.
When we lost it was the worst feeling ever, she said. I never want to feel that way again. I was just a freshman at the time and I definitely felt everything the seniors were feeling, and thats a really good motivator to not feel that again.
Valentines ups and downs in Florida helped refine her mental approach to the game as much as her technical skills.
I think it helps me deal with the pressure, she explained. Everyone gets pretty nervous going into the games, but I feel like my experience helps me to not get so nervous and to really focus more of my energy into what Im doing on the field instead of whats going to happen. I feel like I can help a lot of people get their heads into the game more.
If you ask them, focus likely wont be an issue for these Dragons.
It all starts with the senior leadership, Colvin said. We have 15 seniors and they were all very driven from the beginning of the year. Actually, theyve been driven since we lost to Marcus last year. a lot of the girls were saying they wished we could just skip the district season and get right into the playoffs because they wanted it that bad.
And though its been five years since Carroll claimed a girls state soccer title, that teams success still impacts todays players.
Weve had players come back to talk to us that were on the team that won state in 2008, Landers said. They just talk about how these are memories you keep for a lifetime, and that just makes us want it even more.
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