When the Class 6A girls soccer championship is played on Saturday, only one team in Texas is going to be thrilled.
Byron Nelson’s first season in the new classification delivered just about everything short of winning a state championship. The Lady Bobcats (21-4) won the District 5-6A championship, won two playoff games and had a decent showing against eventual Region I finalist Southlake Carroll.
The Lady Dragons used two goals from Mary Meehan to oust Nelson in the Region I quarterfinals on April 7, 3-1, at the Birdville Fine Arts and Athletic Complex in North Richland Hills.
“I felt like we played very well for the first 15 minutes,” Nelson coach Philip Salyer said. “We had some good possession and had some solid chances. But if you don’t take advantage of them against a team like Carroll, it’s going to catch up with you.”
The Lady Bobcats had tied the game, 1-1, on a Chaney Brugman goal. But the tie didn’t last long as Carroll went ahead, 2-1. That really seemed to change the tenor of the match.
In the second half, Carroll continued to bring more pressure and eventually scored what was an insurance goal. Nelson had one strong push in the opening minute of the second half, but then really could do nothing more in the second half, Salyer said.
“Ansley (Bunger) just never could get anything going, but you have to credit them, because they’re a really good team,” Salyer said. “Basically, Carroll killed the game off in the second half. Obviously, the girls were disappointed. But they shouldn’t hang their heads. They played really well all season. When you get into the playoffs, everybody is good. Then they get better the deeper you go into the postseason.”
Nelson played in the 2014 then-Class 4A state tournament. While the standard is getting to Georgetown, Nelson believed this team held its own against some of the state’s best teams. When you consider losses were to Carroll, undefeated and state tournament participant Coppell and playoff participant Keller, that means the program defeated the teams it was supposed to beat.
“I am pleased with what we accomplished,” Salyer said. “We competed in one of the toughest districts in the state. It may not have been like others (6-6A and 7-6A), but there was some great competition.”
Along with playing in the Nolan tournament, Salyer tried to prepare his team for this new level of play with a scrimmage against McKinney Boyd. That toughened his team.
“We got a sense of what to look at,” he said. “Really, the big difference is the depth in the districts. You’re going to be challenged every night in district play. That wasn’t the case in 4A.”
Looking to 2016
Nelson should be the favorite to repeat as 5-6A champions in 2016. This team returns Bunger and defender Katina Tsapos, among others. In fact, Salyer would like to see if he can keep Tsapos at midfield.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for three years,” Salyer said. “I know what she can do, but her defense is really important.”
While Bonnie Ruten graduates, Tatum Hightower returns and should patrol the box.