At a school with not much recent playoff success — football made it in 2015 and boys basketball made it in 2010 — boys soccer coach Joey Rodriguez and the Arlington Sam Houston soccer team have given the Texans something to cheer about.
The amount of support has been tremendous.
“It’s really similar from a couple years ago, cheering for our players that work so hard,” Rodriguez said. “All the sports feed off each other, we’re a close group and it’s pretty cool to see all the students and other coaches in the stands.”
The Texans (21-2-2) head to Georgetown for their second UIL state soccer tournament appearance in three years. Sam Houston meets Pasadena Dobie (20-2-4) at 5 p.m. Friday at Birkelbach Field.
“We all take pride in the game and the program, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Rodriguez added. “Kids come up congratulating me, wishing us good luck. I’m feeling the support and it brings the whole school together.”
A goal given away to Katy Cinco Ranch in the 72nd minute of a 2-1 loss at the 2015 state semifinals still haunts Sam Houston, so the Texans have unfinished business. Weather delays of nearly three hours were also a factor that day.
“We’re blessed to be there, but with delays in the semifinals two years ago, we felt like we didn’t get a good shot at it,” Rodriguez said.
Seniors Luis Vargas and Omar Herrera, and junior Angel Ramirez played significant minutes in 2015. All three are on this year’s squad and know what to expect.
“They’ve told the others on the team about the experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” Rodriguez said. “The feeling of walking on that state field and the fans cheering for you, this past weekend at the regional tournament was a great preview.”
The Texans, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 5 nationally by Top Drawer Soccer, won the 6A Region I tournament with back-to-back 3-2 overtime thrillers over District 5-6A teams Lewisville and Hebron.
“It helps tremendously,” Rodriguez said. “In important games like that, it tests your mental strength and gets these guys ready mentally and physically. Anything can happen at the state tournament so it prepares us a little bit better.”
Freshman Jose Ortiz looks to continue his playoff success this weekend. Ortiz scored four times in the past three games including two goals and the game winner against Lewisville in the 90th minute. His assist against Hebron in the 94th minute set up Sergio Martinez’s game-winning score.
“He doesn’t play or prepare like a freshman, Rodriguez said. “He plays with such passion, it’s been a blessing to watch him practice and train, and he makes everyone else better. They have a healthy competition and everybody feeds off one another.”