CCA soccer success at state: boys’ bittersweet state title, girls look to next year with anticipation

03/10/2014 2:48 PM

03/10/2014 2:49 PM

The Covenant Christian Academy Cougars have a lot to celebrate when they return from spring break. After only four seasons in existence, the varsity boys soccer team has claimed its second Division III State Championship. The girls varsity soccer team made it to the semi-final round, ending its season 15-5-1. No small feat, considering that it lost eight seniors last year and should have been in a rebuilding year.

The Lady Cougars were not expected to make it far this season but their dedication paid off.

“We certainly weren’t thinking we would be in the playoffs this year but this group of girls wouldn’t quit,” said head coach Scott Friedman. “They love each other, played for each other, listened. They created a team chemistry that made them better than their individual skills.”

Leading the team was junior Daisy Rogers, the only player with select soccer experience, or any before this season at CCA.

“Daisy is the captain and is a three-year starter,” Friedman said. “She really stepped up her leadership role and quarterbacked this young, rebuilding team.”

Goalie Lauren Bartsch also stepped up to lead a young defense.

“Three years ago she had never stepped foot in a goal and we were desperate to find a goalie. We trained her as a goalie all summer and she just has the raw, athletic ability and dedication to be the best she can be,” Friedman said. “The young girls know she has it all under control, and she really shone this year.”

Defenders Maddie Wofford and Tessa Leatherwood blossomed under the leadership.

“Tessa is a freshman who is primarily a water polo player and she just really came through for us,” Friedman said. “Maddie was a sub last year and she helped bring some experience to the back.”

Friedman said his forwards Adrianna Ardi and Anna LaMar helped drive the girls to success each day.

“Their relentless hard work and pursuit of excellence was contagious,” he said. “They left nobody else any choice in practice but to raise their game.”

That dedication led the team to the playoffs again this season where they lost 2-0 to The Brook Hill School, the only school that had defeated them in the regular season.

“Our only defeats this year were at the hands of the undefeated, defending state champions,” said Friedman. “They have eight senior starters out of eleven girls. We can’t wait for next year.”

Friedman has another reason to be proud. His son Brooks was one of the three senior captains to guide the boys team to a second consecutive state title.

“I was my son’s coach since he was four, through rec and up through club. We started the boys program because of the core group of good boys on our club team,” Friedman said. “I could not be prouder to watch my son become the leader and talented young man he has become on and off of the field.”

With four seniors who had played together at CCA since the programs’ inception their freshman year, the championship game was bittersweet for boys head coach Nathan Nipper.

“I gathered the seniors before the final game and tried to ignite a little extra flame. It was the last game I would get to coach for that group and it was hard,” he said. “I’ve coached them for four years in a row and they are not only great athletes but great kids off the field.”

The Cougars had to face Cypress Christian Academy in Houston in the final game, the team they defeated for the state title last year. Cypress Christian led at the half.

“We tied the game in the first minute of the second half and did not score again until about there were about three minutes left in the match,” Nipper said. “Matthew Schwebke scored the winning goal. It was great to see him score that goal because he has really been a key player for us over the years.”

Winning the state title twice in a row is no easy feat.

“People told us it would be tougher to win the second championship in a row, that you have a target on your back,” Nipper said. “Everybody is out to give extra against the defending champions.”

Weather added adversity.

“We had more cancellations due to weather this year than I have ever seen as a coach. Our schedule was constantly in flux and then we had a logjam of games at the end of the season,” Nipper said. “Our guys had to play harder and more when they were physically tired. I am proud that they stuck it out.”

Helping hold the team together as they overcame the season’s hurdles was midfielder Brooks Friedman.

“Brooks really stepped up as the main leader on and off of the field,” Nipper said. “He really motivated the guys and did a great job rallying them when they would start to get complacent in district play.”

Friedman and fellow senior captains Jacob Garcia and Elliot Wendel all were All-State players last season and set the tone for the team.

“We have a great camaraderie on the team and it makes all the difference that they are so familiar with playing with each other,” Nipper said. “It really enhances our passing game and really is the key to our success.”

Following spring break, there will be a winter sports banquet where both teams will be honored for their successful seasons.

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