The Timber Creek Lady Falcons may have finished playing soccer for the season, but forward Haley Ward is just getting geared up. The freshman also plays for the Dallas Texans 00 Elite Club National League (or ECNL) team and her focus has turned to their upcoming appearance at the ECNL National Playoffs in Seattle. The club experience and increased competition should help hone her game for both teams.
“Haley had an outstanding freshman year,” said Timber Creek head coach Mike King. “She is so tenacious, she is extremely coachable and she never stops working. Even if she messes up, she does it at 100 miles per hour and then she is working to fix that mistake immediately.”
Despite playing the sport for most of her life, the move to high school soccer brought Ward a new set of challenges and lessons.
“High school is different from the club team because the girls are older and we are together more,” she said. “I had a lot of fun and my favorite part was probably when I scored my first goal. It felt really good to do that, especially against the team we were playing because they were tough.”
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Ward turned 14 shortly after joining the Lady Falcons, and was one of only two freshmen on the varsity squad. She started in every game for Timber Creek this season, including the regional quarterfinals.
“The challenge first was to take a 13-year-old and get her to understand that she couldn’t play her age group soccer any more, and that she had to get more physical and play faster,” King said. “She had to get over the fact that these kids were older than her and she did that very quickly. It’s intimidating to play with 18-year-olds but the team really supported her.”
Ward adjusted so well that she was named District Newcomer of the Year, and was awarded the honor at the team banquet.
“It meant a lot to stand up there and know I earned it,” she said.
King was not surprised that Ward earned the title. After starting slow, she ended the year with 10 goals and seven assists.
“You couldn’t ask for a better freshman year,” he said. “The first time I saw her play, I knew she would be special to the program. Nobody had ever really pushed her mentally before and the more I pushed her, the tougher and more determined she got. I’m proud of how she adapted her play to our style.”
Ward credits coaching as well as hard work for her growth and success this year, and now focuses her attention on the upcoming nationals trip at the end of the month.
“My coaches have helped me a lot this year especially with shooting drills,” she said. “I hope to get better and score a lot at nationals and I hope we win.”
King tailors his coaching style to the fact that many of his players are on both the school and a club team, and uses their increased playing time to his advantage.
“I try to manage the girls’ mental aspect of the game more than the physical because they are all playing year-round and I want high school soccer to still feel fresh to them,” he said. “Our kids stay committed, stay loyal and still like playing here. Haley had a great freshman year but now she’s a marked girl. She will have to step up and take charge more, because she will have that experience. I have no doubt she will. She loves playing and playing for Timber Creek.”