She stood on the Mansfield sidelines next to her father every chance she could and watched. Misail Tsapos’ little girl Katina couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Misail coached soccer, officiated it, taught it, lived it and breathed it. Even in the middle of the Texas summer with the temperatures well above 100, Katina spent those hours with her father Misail running through drills to become a bona fide player.
The Byron Nelson junior center back spent one drill where she took feeds from her father, put the ball on the ground and had to make a choice on one of three targets to direct her pass. Repetitions ruled. Minutes turned into hours. But as far as she was concerned, time stood still.
“His love for the game really meant something to me,” Katina said. “It spread to me and I really loved it. He helped me figure out the game. Now, I understand why I love it.”
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Katina played an instrumental part of her club team winning the ECNL national championship in Richmond, Va., two weeks ago. Playing the back line, the skillful Tsapos had an assist that led to the game-winning goal to knock off a team from North Carolina.
That’s just the finishing touch to what was a pretty incredible year. She split time between midfield and center back for Nelson in helping the Lady Bobcats to the Class 4A state semifinals in Georgetown. They lost in a heartbreaking shootout to eventual state champion Austin Vandergrift.
Misail watched or coached it all. He coached her club team and sat as a proud father in the stands for the state tournament run. Although he could have coached her at Colleyville Heritage where he works, Misail said he decided to let that situation ride and let her stay at Nelson.
“She’s played with my club team since the U9, which is why we left high school the way it was,” he said. “In my opinion, she’s a very technical player with great vision. Her speed and ability to receive the ball and make decisions very fast is something you can’t coach.
“Katina already sees the next play and already knows what to do a majority of the time in order to make the team go forward.”
Katina’s ability has already been spotted, even though she still has two more years to play. She has given a verbal commitment to SMU and passed up other opportunities with Houston, Mississippi State and Auburn.
Even though she doesn’t play for her dad at high school, Tsapos’ style is very similar to how Nelson girls soccer coach Philip Salyer runs his team.
“He just lets them play,” Misail said. “He explains to his team what he wants from his gameplan and wants them to execute it. Philip doesn’t scream at his players. He just wants them to be their best.”
And that will be the challenge when Nelson moves up to 6A and competing at a higher level. Nelson will be in 5-6A with the Keller schools and playing in a tough region with Flower Mound Marcus, Carroll and defending state champion Lewisville Hebron. But there’s a quiet confidence within the program that it can handle the transition.
“The national championship lets a lot of people know about the commitment we put into it,” Katina said. “We just have to work to be ready.”