Byron Nelson’s girls soccer program continued its march toward the District 5-6A championship. It defeated Keller Central, 2-1, on March 10 in order to maintain control of first place.
The Lady Bobcats (18-3, 11-2) stayed one point ahead of Keller and had to at least win Friday at Keller Fossil Ridge to wrap up the championship. Head coach Philip Salyer brought his team out for a workout this past Thursday just to keep the players sharp before this week began.
“Really, second is the worst we can do,” Salyer said. “We feel really good about what we’ve been able to do through the season. But we felt like with 10 days between games, we just wanted to keep the players in a little bit of a routine. The players seemed to respond to that very well.”
As far as a bi-district opponent is concerned, that’s going to take a little while. Defending Class 6A state champion (5A last year) Hebron has clinched the district championship. But the second through fourth positions are a bit of a logjam between Plano West, McKinney Boyd, Allen and Flower Mound Marcus.
“Everything is so close over there, so you really don’t know what to look for,” Salyer said. “But that’s something that we can’t control, obviously. It really doesn’t matter because we know we’re going to face a great team from that district.”
In the 2-1 victory over Keller Central, Ansley Bunger and Alexis Smith scored.
Smith is listed as a sophomore midfielder, but it’s clear that Salyer likes to move her to different spots on the field. He identifies her as a utility player because she can play defense or move to the front line.
“I use her all over the place, but we’re fortunate we have a player who gives us a little bit of everything,” Salyer said. “When we were even with Central, we moved her to outside midfielder and could shift her to center.
“She played in the state semifinal last year when we were playing up top. She’s a really huge asset to us. Really, it varies from game to game. The thing that helps her is that she’s so athletic.”
When Smith started in Salyer’s program, she was viewed as more of a defensive midfielder, even though she had been playing as an attacking forward. His belief centered on the idea that he wanted to keep her to bring stability to the back of the field.
“You have to be coachable and willing to do what it asked,” Salyer said. “As athletic as she is, she still had to adapt to 6A. She just improved her skill level and technical way she plays the game. She’s really not someone who will give the ball away. She’s also physical. That’s pretty good value.”
Senior center midfielder Ann Odom did not play against Central because of an illness. However, Salyer believes she should be ready for Fossil Ridge.
The Lady Texans lost to Denton Ryan on March 10, 3-0, and will conclude the season on Friday with senior night against Keller.