Moving forward, it won’t be this easy for the Byron Nelson girls soccer team to win playoff games.
You can treat their first week of the playoffs as somewhat of a reward for winning a share of the District 11-4A championship. The Lady Bobcats earned the top seed and hammered White Settlement Brewer, 4-0, last Tuesday. and Gainesville, 6-0, this past Friday.
As such, the Lady Bobcats (18-2-5) have moved on to the sectional round – Class 4A has one extra round of the playoffs – and will meet district rival Birdville at 6 p.m. Friday at Grapevine’s Mustang-Panther Stadium.
“I tell the girls that you get rewarded for finishing in the top two,” head coach Philip Salyer said. “But now every game will be tough.”
The comfortable wins offered Salyer the chance to look at different combinations both offensively and defensively. It’s not to say he’s going to move into a different combination, but at least he got to see if he wanted to try it.
Another benefit is that the offense was spread out. Sophomore midfielder/defender Katina Tsapos scored twice, while freshman midfielder Ansley Bunger scored three times. The other five goals went elsewhere. Senior forward Madison Hall also enjoyed a strong week with several assists.
But there’s no question Tsapos, Hall and Bunger will have a huge impact on this team’s chances of returning to the state tournament for the second time in three years.
“Those are the kinds of things we want to have happen,” Salyer said. “We moved and played around in the two games. We have a week do decide what we want to do.”
One of the dilemmas will be with Tsapos. Because she’s so solid both offensively and defensively, Salyer is going to have to decide how he wants to use her. Does he risk moving her up a line – Tsapos usually starts at defender – or does he keep her back?
“I would love to see if we could move Katina up,” Salyer said. “It’s something that I know she can play either and do well. We just need to see who can step up defensively for us.”
Keeper rotation continues
In the postseason, coaches usually will stick to one player in a particular position. In soccer, that’s usually keeper.
But Salyer is breaking from tradition by rotating sophomore Tatum Hightower and junior Bonnie Rutan. Rutan faced Brewer, while Hightower played against Gainesville. It will be Rutan’s turn against Birdville.
“Both offer certain strengths and have different weaknesses,” Salyer said. “As long as we keep it rolling, I plan on keeping it this way. I’ve never done this before, but we’re fortunate to be in this position.”
Three is a charm
This is the third meeting between Nelson and Birdville. The Lady Bobcats won the first meeting, 2-0, and tied the second, 1-1. Both games were very even. In the win, Hall scored twice in the second half. In the tie, Birdville scored in the final moments. So why would the third edition be any different?
“I expect the intensity to be as great as it was in the first two meetings,” Salyer said.