The Trophy Club Nelson girls soccer team is back in the UIL state tournament for the second time in three years, and there’s no mistaking that the handful of players who experienced the heartbreaking conclusion to the 2012 season are using those memories as fuel for this year’s run.
“We really do kind of want revenge, knowing that we had a taste of it and we were so close to it,” senior Macy Combs said.
It doesn’t get much closer than the Bobcats came two years ago. Nelson played Highland Park to a 0-0 scoreline through regulation and overtime, only to lose in the 10th round of a penalty-kick shootout.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say revenge, but the chance to redeem myself, for sure,” senior Allie Rivers said. “This Saturday, when we won regionals, I got really emotional after the game because I have a chance to prove myself again.
“I think we’re hungry after that loss [in the final two years ago], and now that we get to come back, we’re that much more determined.”
Combs, Rivers and junior Ann Odom experienced the 2012 state tournament as players, but a number of the current underclassmen watched as aspiring Bobcats.
“A lot of the girls were in middle school, so they remember it,” coach Philip Salyer said. “It wasn’t that long ago, so they remember watching it and it’s kind of neat to know that they’re actually playing in it now.”
Having a trio of veterans with state tournament experience would figure to pay dividends for the Bobcats, who have only five seniors on their roster.
“They’re all really excited just like we were,” Combs said of the underclassmen. “We tell them how it was and that gets them more pumped up.”
And though the stage sounds big for a young team, none of the veterans feel like it will shake this group.
“We’re a younger team than last time we went, and I know a lot of people would say that’s a disadvantage,” Rivers said. “But I honestly think that because we have a lot of younger players, they don’t necessarily understand how big of a stage this is, so they’re much more composed. They don’t necessary get nervous or freeze up. They just kind of play their game.”
There is one area of the game you can bet this team will be more prepared for than in 2012 — penalty kicks.
“We started that a long time ago,” Rivers joked.
The team has put in PK work at nearly every practice since that loss in the final.
“We work so much on them that I think we’ll be ready if it comes to that again,” Combs said.
She added that she’d prefer to win a state title without all the drama.
“Penalty kicks are so much more adrenaline,” she said. “But at the same time, you don’t want all that stress. I would say winning it before penalty kicks.”