Keller girls soccer plays waiting game to make playoff runs

Posted Monday, Jun. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Patience is a virtue quickly learned by the Keller girls soccer team.

Loaded with veteran attacking forwards such as Sarah Shaw and Amanda Stickney, Keller knew scoring chances would come. The real strategy behind a Keller playoff run that carried into the Region I semifinals was keeping the ball in front.

“We knew we could score, we didn’t know we’d score two or three goals a game, but we knew we would eventually score,” Keller head coach Billy Griffiths said. “We had some pretty dynamic players up front. We knew that if we could just limit the goals scored on us, we would score.”

Keller was almost perfect in that endeavor throughout their four-game playoff run. The Lady Indians averaged just 0.8 goals against in those games, while averaging 2.2 goals of their own. Two of those games ended in 2-0 Keller shutouts.

This ability to stealthily stalk the ever-elusive goal, waiting for the right time to strike, did not come naturally to the team. It was a process that was discovered and practiced throughout Keller’s non-district schedule.

“We were going forward trying to possess and play that kind of soccer and as soon as they get the ball away, it’s automatically behind us,” Griffiths said. “It took us most of non-district to kind of figure that out. Once we got into district it really became evident that they were giving us respect and just wanted to get it away from their goal. We didn’t run forward so much in waves. We would try to be patient, win it and then try to control it and score.”

While Keller’s defensive third was filled with three senior backs, it wasn’t just designated defensive players who provided a stop for the team. Part of that team-wide patience relied on midfielders and forwards staying in front of their marks anywhere on the field, keeping opponents out of the Keller defensive third.

It was a team with experience. Boasting 15 seniors, Keller knew what it took to advance in the playoffs after making a quick exit the year before in a bi-district loss to Flower Mound.

This group came just short of the ultimate goal of the state tournament, losing to the other school from Flower Mound, Marcus, 2-0 in the regional semifinals.

Typically, a team that graduates 15 seniors is in for a rough season or two as the rebuilding process unfolds. But Griffiths isn’t worried.

“Our whole program is full of very good players,” he said. “We’ll lose 15 but we’ll bring up some pretty good players. I think it’s actually going to be a blessing in disguise. I don’t think people will realize we’ll be very strong.”

Last year, both the freshman and junior varsity squads lost just one game between the two teams. Griffiths said 95 percent of his program is heavily involved with club soccer programs, keeping them active and in shape 11 months out of the year.

What the coach expects is a cycle not unlike that his program just experienced. The 2014 season will be one for his inexperienced team to get a taste of varsity play and then hopefully make the playoffs, leading to another long run the following year when another large group of seniors makes up the team.

But it also wouldn’t surprise him if this team surpassed all expectations and played to its high potential.

It will be a different team, one that might not see quite as many solid scoring chances as the previous edition at first.

With fewer scoring chances, Keller’s mantra will remain the same, keeping the ball in front and out of the net.

“It would be a nice surprise if we could score at the same pace as we did this year, but we might have to be even more patient and more selective when we get forward,” Griffiths said.

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