The ball didn’t bounce Arlington Martin’s way very often in a girls soccer game against Keller Timber Creek.
But it did bounce Karlee Heiser’s way following a Lady Warriors corner kick late in the second half. The junior right-midfielder turned the opportunity into Martin’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw on a soggy mid-January night in the team’s home opener.
“I just went for it,” Heiser said. “I just kicked the ball and hoped for the best.”
Headed into district play, Martin is led in goal scoring by Heiser, who has helped the team remain competitive despite missing numerous players in recent games due to injuries and illness. “With a lot of injuries, it just makes you want to push more,” Heiser said.
The Lady Warriors, who won the district last year on the way to the 6A regional finals, should return to full health soon, and they hope a return to last season’s level of play follows suit.
“We’re taped up, iced up, all kinds of things,” Martin coach Sabina Harrington said after the Keller Timber Creek game, which was halted for a half hour in the first half due to lightning in the area. “But I don’t want to offer any excuses because you have to come out and play.”
Martin’s injury list includes Haley Ober, the district’s outstanding midfielder last season, who is recovering from a knee injury, and reigning district most valuable player Haley Riley, who hurt her hip and back in tournament play.
Riley, one of 13 seniors on the squad, expected to return for the district opener against Bowie. Injuries and early-season struggles won’t district the team from its goal of repeating as district champions, Riley said.
“Honestly, I think the whole team wants to play at the level we did last year,” Riley said.
If Riley matches her 2016 output, opponents had better watch out. The center-midfielder notched a district-leading 19 goals as a junior. But her goal-scoring output isn’t how Harrington gauges Riley’s value to the team.
“Everything she does in the middle of the field: controlling the ball, setting the tempo,” Harrington said. “Play runs through her a lot. If they want to step and shut her down … well then someone else can step up.”
The coach will know Martin’s rounded into form when other players are making opponents pay for devoting extra attention to Riley. “We’ve got a lot of good ball handlers,” Harrington said. “If you want to cover her, then here I go.”
Heiser’s one of those players who has taken advantage of her chances. Riley’s not surprised by Heiser’s recent scoring success.
“A lot of the girls have been playing together a long time,” Riley said. “That just creates an atmosphere of everybody supporting each other. … On the field, it’s a feeling of unity. It doesn’t matter who scores. We care more about the team.”
The Martin boys basketball team continued its dominance over District 4-6A, posting a 64-34 victory over Lamar to move to 7-0 in district and 16-7 overall.
With most teams having seven or eight games left in district, the only other Arlington ISD team established in the playoff picture is Bowie at 5-2, tied with North Crowley for second place.
Lamar (3-4) is just behind Mansfield (4-3) in the battle for the fourth playoff spot. The Vikings have a great chance to make up ground next week with games against Arlington and Mansfield.
Arlington and Sam Houston, each with one district victory, will need something dramatic to happen to make the playoffs.
In 9-5A, Seguin is challenging Crowley for the final playoff berth. The Cougars have eight games remaining in district.
Bowie remains undefeated in 4-6A with a 9-0 record and in first place. Lamar is in second and Martin is in fourth. The season ends Feb. 7.
Seguin at 7-2 trails Crowley in the 9-5A standings. The Lady Cougars have five games left in their season.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74