The Byron Nelson girls soccer team is on a mission. After losing a heartbreaker to Highland Park in the 2012 4A state championship, the Lady Bobcats fell to Guyer in last year’s Region 11-4A final game. Overcoming those frustrating losses has motivated the team to a strong 8-2 pre-district start.
“We have a really strong district,” said head coach Philip Salyer. “We were 27-3-1 last year and Guyer was the only team we lost to all season. They went on to win the state title. We are hoping this year we can figure out a way to beat them.”
The Lady Bobcats graduated eight seniors last year and will be facing a strong Guyer team twice this year in district play, making preparation beforehand that much more important for the young team.
“I have been really pleased with the team so far. We have some young players playing very confidently,” Salyer said. “They aren’t playing like freshmen and sophomores, they are really helping fill the void.”
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A tough pre-district schedule has resulted in some minor injuries to several starters.
“We played a lot of games in the last two weeks and we are a little beat-up,” Salyer said. “We are trying to get everyone better in the next two weeks before district play.”
Injuries may plague the squad but have also presented Salyer with the chance to develop his team’s depth.
“This has given an opportunity to some of our players to get some more varsity experience,” he said. “Most of our players are getting to play as we are hoping to get everyone healthy.”
Defender Allie Rivers and forward Madison Hall, four-year varsity players, are helping guide their younger teammates. The senior captains have both committed to play Division -1 college soccer after they graduate but aren’t letting the future distract them.
“Both girls have done a great job of taking the freshmen under their wings,” Salyer said. “They have really stepped up to guide and lead them.”
Second-year varsity goalkeepers Bonnie Ruten and Tatum Hightower are splitting time at the position and lending more experience to the team.
“The girls each have a year of varsity under their belts and I’ve really been pleased so far with both of them,” Salyer said. “I can see more confidence in them from last year to this year.”
Despite the injuries and youth his team faces, Salyer is focusing on upcoming competition with confidence.
“We went to the state tournament two years ago and our goal is to get back to that again,” he said. “We need to focus on district first, though. We’ve come in second in district the last two years behind Denton Ryan and Guyer, and our team goal this year is to win our district.”
Even district rivals can prove useful.
“We are in one of the toughest districts in Region 1, and winning our district would give us a great chance to make it to state,” he said. “We are fortunate to be in a very competitive district, which helps us in playoffs.”
The Lady Bobcats open district play on Feb. 7 at home against Lake Dallas.