The Burleson Centennial girls soccer team has just one loss on its overall record this season, and has navigated District 16-4A with only one draw compared with 10 wins.
A second consecutive district title is well within reach, but the road hasn’t been as simple as the 17-1-1 record might indicate.
The drive for this season’s team actually started about a week after the Spartans won the 16-4A championship in 2013. Centennial was upset by 15-4A fourth seed Cleburne in the bi-district round.
“I think we got a little overconfident in the first round and got knocked out,” coach Kara Cuellar said. “I’m guilty of it, too. I think we were looking too far ahead.”
“We use that as motivation every day,” she added. “Last year, we only had three seniors. This year, with so many seniors, they want to go out with a bang. They want to go as far as possible, because they’ll never again play at Centennial High School or with this group of girls. This is it. I think those seniors are really carrying this team.”
The impact of her senior leaders, especially Koryann Clark and Taylor Mauppin, can’t be understated. It was up to them to keep the team focused while Cuellar was out on maternity leave. Cuellar left school in September and didn’t return until Jan. 4, the date of the team’s first scheduled game.
“They said, ‘You just had a baby, we know you’re stressed, we’ll take care of everything.’ They would come up with drills for things they felt we needed to work on. They took over,” Cuellar said. “I didn’t know if they would all step up or take practice seriously. Koryann and Taylor would get onto girls — sometimes their best friends — and the girls responded.”
Cuellar is certain her team will maintain its laser-sharp focus for Friday’s meeting with Mansfield Legacy — the team responsible for the only draw on the Spartans’ district record.
No ‘I’ in team
Since Azle added soccer as a UIL sport in 1994, the girls team hasn’t finished higher than third place in the district standings. The Hornets set out to change that this season, and adopted a new motto to help get there: TOTAL, which stands for “Taking our Team to Another Level.”
“We’ve really geared our season toward that motto,” coach Trent Davis said. “We’ve been successful in the past, but getting third place or fourth place in district and just making the playoffs — we’re beyond that now. Our goal is to win a district championship, and once we get to the playoffs, to advance and make a run at it.”
The Hornets probably saw their district title hopes fade with a tough 1-0 loss to District 12-4A leaders Saginaw Boswell on Tuesday, but Azle (13-4-2, 8-2-1) can still put together the best campaign in school history.
“I knew going into this year we had the potential to be one of the best teams that Azle has had,” Davis said. “With the girls’ attitude, their skill level, their work ethic — I knew we had the potential. This one has been a special year for us because we’re right there in the hunt.”
If Azle can win its final three matches, and Boswell wins out, the Hornets would finish second in the district standings.
“We’re just a little bitty town and a lot of people don’t hear about Azle soccer, so for us to be fortunate enough to string some wins together, it’s fun for them,” Davis said.
TAPPS has reached the state tournaments in boys and girls soccer, and several local teams are vying for championships, which will be played at Houston schools Thursday through Saturday.
The Fort Worth Nolan Catholic girls and boys teams have advanced. The girls (21-4-5) face 22-time (that’s correct) defending champion Ursuline Academy of Dallas (10-5-1) in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Awty International School. The boys (9-3-2) take on San Antonio Central Catholic (19-5-6) at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Colleyville Covenant has also sent boys and girls teams to the state tournament. The Cougars boys (19-5-1) will play Bullard The Brook Hill (13-0-3) at 2 p.m. Thursday. The Cougars girls (17-4-1) also face The Brook Hill (16-0), at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The Grapevine Faith boys (20-0-2) are seeking a fourth consecutive state title, and square off in the semifinals with Fort Worth Southwest Christian (18-2-1) at 4 p.m. Friday at St. Thomas High School.