The challenge to restore Justin Northwest girls soccer program to respectability is a process that Becca Willett accepts and understands.
While Northwest (1-4-4 in District 5-6A) is playing in the second division of district play, Willett sees a payoff coming. The Lady Texans have collected points (nine) in five of their first nine district games. They played Keller Central on Tuesday and meet Northwest Byron Nelson on Friday.
Willett spent the previous three seasons at Lewisville coaching that girls program. She’s working with a team heavy with upper classmen with this team.
“When I started I felt we had to begin at the ground level,” Willett said. “We just wanted to cover the basics of the sport. With the opening of [Eaton High School], it really ate away at our underclass numbers. But we’ve needed our juniors and seniors to play hard and just get us to go forward.”
Injuries have also compounded this team’s season where it has lost several for periods of time including one for the season. That’s caused Willett to play different lineups practically all the time.
Junior Taylor Schott has been the roaming player in a number of positions, including center midfield. Schott has also played on defense. Seniors Dana Taylor and Michelle Coker have been pretty steady in the back line to help junior keeper Fergie Soto.
“Those players have been pretty consistent for us all year,” Willett said. “[Schott] reads the ball very well and [Coker] just knows where to be on defense. We’re a hard-nosed team. We don’t score a lot, so we have to play pretty tight and be tough defensively. The kids have bought into what we’re doing.”
Northwest Byron Nelson update
Even with two weeks remaining on the schedule, it could have been the battle for the District 5-6A championship Tuesday night at the NISD Stadium.
District leader Byron Nelson (17-0, 9-0) played host to second-place Keller (8-1) in the second meeting. Nelson won the first meeting, 1-0, Feb. 2 at the Keller ISD Athletic Complex.
But the storyline to this point is this team playing with an unblemished record. The Lady Bobcats had their share of challenges in recent games. They fell behind 1-0 to Keller Timber Creek before coming back to win 2-1.
This bulls-eye gets bigger every time this team takes the field. The pressure has been there. But the Lady Bobcats have responded. The game against the Lady Indians was going to be their toughest to date. Keller’s offense scored 13 goals last week. Nelson’s defense was going to have to be at its best.
“We try not to talk about [the undefeated record],” head coach Philip Salyer said. “We definitely struggled in certain parts of games. But it does help that the girls understand what it takes. When you’re in the second round of district play, every team is going to play you harder.”
Nelson is going to be without junior midfielder Olenka Soko for at least the next two weeks (likely the end of the regular season) because she has gone back to Peru to play for her junior national team that is trying to qualify for a world tournament. Salyer is hopeful Soko will return for the postseason.
However, the team got some good news when junior midfielder Alexis Smith returned to the lineup after missing several weeks due to an orbital fracture.