Taking the other team’s best shot game after game might take its toll on many teams.
But Kevin Tankou and his Arlington Sam Houston teammates don’t seem to stress too much about stiff competition. Instead, they find ways to get the job done.
Case in point: Tankou headed in a precisely placed left cross from Michael Ramirez early in the second half against Lamar on Jan. 30.
That goal proved to be the game-winner in the Texans’ 4-3 victory against the Vikings in the 4-6A opener for both teams.
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“We practice that all the time, and even if it only works once a game, it’s worth it,” Sam Houston coach Joey Rodriguez said of Tankou’s header.
Sam Houston’s used to making winning plays. The team entered 2018 ranked No. 1 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer.
During a loaded non-district season that the Texans call their toughest in program history, talented soccer squads from Texas and elsewhere tried to prove their mettle against the Texans. It was like a playoff game every time out, according to the coach.
“We’re a big game to everyone we play,” said Rodriguez, whose team managed a 5-3 record in nondistrict that could’ve easily been 7-1. “It’s been a challenge, but I think the guys have responded well.”
Sam Houston certainly responded well against Lamar. Sam Houston was without sophomore phenom Jose Ortiz, the 2017 Texas Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year and Star-Telegram Boys Super Team Player of the Year, who was nursing a pulled muscle.
But an assortment of teammates stepped up to replace Ortiz’s production. Michael Ramos scored a goal three minutes into the game and helped push the pace throughout the game. And Tankou assisted on a Nate Kopetsky goal late in the first half when Sam Houston was attacking into a howling south wind.
Tankou then scored the aforementioned game-winner with the wind at his back early in the second half.
“One of the great things about our team is we feel like anybody can do it,” said Kopetsky, a junior midfielder.
For Tankou, how the Texans play in games goes back to how they practice.
“We just work hard every practice,” Tankou said. “Coaches push us every day. We’ve been ready every time we’re out on the field. We’re just ready to go.”
The Texans would’ve preferred not to give up two Lamar goals late in the second half after leading 4-1 after Tankou's goal. But Rodriguez was impressed by his team’s composure in the final 10 minutes nursing the one-goal lead.
"We kept our composure and didn't do anything crazy in the final 10 minutes," Rodriguez said.
Like most times that Sam Houston has been tested this season, the Texans passed with flying colors. After all, there’s nothing that seems to surprise this squad.
“We have a few returners that were on the first state team,” Kopetsky said. “So other players have gotten used to that expectation a little bit. That leadership helps a lot of the guys who are maybe newer.”