Senior captains Alex Lane, Julien Basey and Austin Hamilton had a forgettable junior season.
The Martin boys soccer team in 2013 seemed to forget what it was like to play Warriors soccer, but the trio of seniors has helped restore Martin to prominence and helped ignite a deep playoff run. According to Lane, one of the keys to the Warriors’ success was forgetting about 2013.
“You can’t go into the next season thinking about the last one,” said Lane, a center back.
Second-year coach Brady Cagle said the 2014 squad plays with an aggressive, up-tempo style that only works when the entire team buys into the same concept. That style of play took some time to develop. Cagle, an Arlington native who came to Martin after a successful stint in Victoria in South Texas, took it hard last season when the Warriors failed to make the playoffs in his first season.
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“It was a rough year last year,” Cagle said. “I felt bad for those seniors last year that graduated. I took it on myself. I felt it was my fault we didn’t make the playoffs last year.”
A year later, Cagle and his senior captains have made Martin the District 3-5A champion. And with a 3-1 victory against El Paso El Dorado on Friday in Midland, the Warriors advanced to the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The story of the 2014 season is still being written as the team got set for El Paso Eastwood on Tuesday afternoon in Midland.
“This year it’s a new book,” Cagle said. “I think we can go as far as we want. I think we can make it to state.”
Hamilton said last season’s down year wasn’t because of a new coach but because of a lack of leadership by some veteran players. Starting last off-season, Hamilton, a center midfielder, and his fellow seniors made it their mission to develop into a cohesive squad.
“We had trouble being cohesive in practice last year, which translated into the game. And think that’s one of the reasons we didn’t do very well in district last year,” Hamilton said.
It took scarcely any time this season for Hamilton to know it could be a special season. Despite some key injuries, Martin advanced deep into two tournaments that opened nondistrict play. The best indicator of the team’s new cohesiveness? The goals were coming from a variety of sources and the key plays were coming from starters and substitutes alike.
“We’re more cohesive, more of a family,” Hamilton said. “We know each other better. We know our abilities and what everybody can do.”
Basey, a center midfielder, can put the ball in the net. Yet, heading into the area-round playoff match against El Dorado, he led the Warriors with just nine goals. But Basey isn’t concerned with statistics. The spread-out scoring is an indicator, he said, of just how many capable contributors Martin can count on in the clutch.
“We’re winning,” Basey said. “That’s all that matters. As long as the ball gets in the net, I don’t care who scores it. It’s an interchangeable-parts type of thing. People come off the bench and play well for us. People move around to different positions and play well for us.”
Basey’s point about the teams depth was demonstrated in the playoff opener against Keller Central. Cagle’s squad showed signs of pulling away from Central. But it took a late goal by reserve Nick Albus, the son of assistant coach Ricky Albus, for the Warriors pulled out a 1-0 victory.
“It’s been a real team effort,” Lane said. “We’ve had people chip in goals from every position.”
Lane has a warning for anyone the Warriors might face the rest of the way in the postseason. Martin’s going to play team ball — and play hard — for the entire game.
“We’re going to play hard from whistle to whistle,” Lane said. “We’re going to go in hard. We’re going to pressure and if we get a shot, we’re going to bury it.”