It wasn’t that the moment became too big for the Grapevine girls soccer team. But the Class 5A state soccer tournament carries a different aura to it.
The chance of winning a state championship is real. Each of the four participants can touch it. There were lessons the Lady Mustangs (23-3-1) learned in the 2-1 semifinal loss to Wylie East this past Thursday. Wylie East used a couple of set pieces (both of them coming as corner kicks) to eliminate the Lady Mustangs.
“We came out a little flat, but not super flat,” Grapevine coach Steve McBride said. “We knew their set pieces were strong for them and that they were going to exploit them.”
Grapevine trailed 1-0 at halftime before tying the game in the 65th minute. The Lady Mustangs had a chance to take the lead in the late minutes but couldn’t convert a chance. That set up the Lady Raiders with the game-winner in the 75th minute. The Lady Mustangs didn’t have much an opportunity to try and produce the equalizer as time expired.
There was a bit of frustration, because McBride believed his team had started to control the pace and wear down the Lady Raiders. But the cruelty of the game is that a team can control end-to-end and then lose, because the opponent executed one thing better.
As it turned out, Wylie East wound up winning the state championship. It defeated Austin Vandergriff in the title game on Saturday, 1-0.
“The first part of the message to my team was that it was huge getting here. It’s a great achievement,” McBride said. “We got the monkey off our back. People view you differently when you get to a state tournament. We played a top-tier team. But the great thing is that the culture of the school had a different vibe to it.”
How it changed
Grapevine team sports’ success has been noted throughout the 2014-2015 academic calendar. But now that this program has played in a state tournament, it changes how the younger players and those in the feeder programs will approach the offseason.
“What this proves is that they can get there and that a team sport at Grapevine can get there,” McBride said. “When you get that huge target and you handle it, you change the culture. You set the bar. Going to the tournament is the bar. That’s what we want to do.”
Looking to 2016
The Lady Mustangs graduate eight seniors from this 2015 squad but return 14 letter winners next winter and spring. The biggest losses are keeper Reilly Ott (signed with Michigan State), defender Sydney Smith (signed with Texas State), midfielder Ellen Colburn (signed with Clemson) and forward Hayley Bargery.
However, this team spread the wealth with its offense. Key scorers in freshman forward Sophie Smith, junior forward Michelle Kotlik and junior forward Jordan Slim will lead the 2016 attack. Junior Katy Hutson is expected to patrol the net.
“Everything is interchangeable because we avoided being a team that’s one-dimensional,” McBride said. “This was an amazing senior class. The culture is going to allow us to move to where a bunch of girls can come in with the opportunity to keep everything going.”