Icy weather, changes in the preseason schedule, a young defense. Each one of these would pose a significant challenge for a soccer team, but the Northwest varsity boys have had to contend with all three as they prepare for district play this month.
Head coach Brent Beeson has met each challenge with confidence and is focusing on upcoming district play.
“We have a young group this year and we are really focusing on trying to find our chemistry early on in the season,” he said. “We have a very young defense but it’s a bunch of guys that will work really hard.”
In a preview of district play, last weekend’s Northwest Invitational gave Beeson the chance to see his team in action.
“The tournament is a preview, but more importantly it’s a chance to figure out personnel-wise who fits where,” he said. “It’s a chance to see what my skill players can do together before district starts.”
Among the Texans’ four returning starters is last year’s second-team all-district goalkeeper Sage Ricker. Ricker is a four-year starter and shares the position with junior Estevan Vazquez, a transfer student who is already proving himself.
“We are really solid at goalkeeper,” Beeson said. “Our transfer Vazquez is a great kid who provides a lot of leadership and is an intense competitor. He’s a general and really commands the defense.”
Vazquez spent the Northwest Invitational on the bench with injuries, but should be back soon.
“Even though he didn’t play this week, he’s still a leader,” Beeson said. “The other boys listen to and respect him.”
The depth and leadership at goalkeeper, as well as experience in the middle, helps balance the young defense.
“Our strength is in our midfield, the same as last year,” Beeson said. “We have a conservative formation to give us balance. Because our defense is young, it gives us numbers in the midfield to protect our back four.”
Two of the Texans’ hard-working midfielders are sophomore Santiago Lopez and junior Jan Woernle.
“Both boys are very technical players who have great vision and are very creative with the ball at the feet,” Beeson said. “They have high soccer IQs and both have good character and work ethic. They are very coachable boys.”
Senior striker Chase Bowler has also proven himself early this year.
“Chase does a great job giving us width outside on the wing,” Beeson said. “He’s got a great motor.”
Dependable and coachable are critical player traits during this shortened preseason time.
“The ice took us back a little bit on preparing for the season,” Beeson said. “We were able to get in about a week and a half of practice over the break. That was good since this year, we only play two tournaments instead of three. The UIL change takes away games and shortens the preparation for district play.”
Making the best of every tournament game and practice, Beeson sees each as a chance to grow.
“We are young and have some experience to gain, and I am looking to see what guys have that intensity and edge,” he said. “We are looking for our identity as a team and to be competitive in district play. We want to continue to move forward in each practice.”
The Texans will have their first big test on Jan. 28, when they host Keller for the district opener.
“Keller has a solid program and is one of the best 5A teams in the state,” Beeson said. Last year we beat them once and they beat us once. The game will be a very good measuring stick for our team.”