Three years removed from a trip to the state tournament, few would expect this year’s Mansfield boys soccer team to make it back to Georgetown. But then again, it’s hard to say exactly what the 2015 team might be. About half of last season’s starting 11 returns, but outside of that, it’s a bit of a mystery. So far, anyway.
“We’re still trying to figure out who can play where for us. We’re still moving players in different directions and trying different formations, and trying to get kids to start jelling together,” head coach John Fazekas said. “It’s still a process that’s going to take a while for us to get going. We’re trying to let the kids know that as long they keep improving each and every day and doing the things that are necessary, we’ll be ready when districts starts.”
Fazekas didn’t shy away from calling it a rebuilding year, but it really depends on how quickly the rebuilding can take place. It hasn’t taken long for the team to flash signs of potential.
“We’ve seen a lot of that throughout,” Fazekas said. “Our biggest thing is not being consistent. That’s the frustrating thing. We can go out there and play very good soccer – move the ball around well, get scoring opportunities – and then for 20 minutes we look like we’re lost. We know we can do it. We’ve proven it in our early scrimmages and games. It’s just trying to keep it consistent for 80 minutes.”
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The coach praised several of his key returning veterans as standing out in the early going. Four-year starter Chase Lankford commands the midfield, while Kody Korleski gives Fazekas an option at either defender or midfielder. Niko West gained valuable varsity experience as a freshman last season. Another player making an early statement is Houston Mings, who warns not to underestimate this squad.
“I think right now all we need to do is find our chemistry and come together as a team,” the senior said. “Our results haven’t really said anything about us. We play our hearts out on the field and we have great individual talent on this team. As soon as we just put all the pieces together, I feel like we’ll be a big threat in district.”
And the beginning of District 8-6A play is the spot these Tigers have circled on the calendar.
“Our goal is to have that final 11 players when district starts,” Fazekas said. “In the meantime, so long as the weather stays good, we get to play games, and the more games we play the more I get to see these kids and figure out what we’re going to be in the long run.”
That first district game is Jan. 27 against Duncanville, a team that was listed in the top 5 in the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches preseason Region I rankings. That gives the Tigers about a week left to prepare. And Fazekas likes how his group approaches its preparations.
“They come out and work hard every day,” he said. “One thing I can definitely say is that these guys come out and give 110 percent most all the time in practice and games. They’re a joy to work with. That’s half the battle right there. If you’re having fun, you’re going to be successful.”
Early success would certainly help build the confidence of this club, which the coaching staff sees as a valuable benefit.
“That’s the thing we’re working with most is trying to get the kids confident in themselves and in their teammates,” Fazekas said. “Most of the players – doesn’t matter if they’re a first-year player or a fourth-year player – they get nervous. The more games we get under us, the stronger they’ll get and the more confident they’ll get.”
Even if they face a few early struggles, Mings doesn’t see this team as one that might just fold the tent.
“The positivity the team has this year is probably the best I’ve seen in my high school career,” he said. “I feel that’s a really positive feature of our team.”