Like his boys counterpart, Byron Nelson girls soccer coach Philip Salyer had no idea who his Class 6A Region I bi-district opponent was going to be.
When the week began, the nine-team District 6-6A wrapped up its regular season on Monday. The opposition was going to be either Flower Mound, Lewisville or Plano. Plano played Lewisville in what was essentially an elimination game. Flower Mound played Plano West.
What made 6-6A so interesting was how much the script had flipped. The usual powers were spectators. The 2014 state champion Lewisville Hebron and 2013 champion Plano West were not going to make the postseason. State power McKinney Boyd was going to miss as well.
“That district is so tough top to bottom that everybody is going and some really good teams are going to miss the playoffs,” Salyer said. “Regardless of who we were going to play, we were going to have a really good challenge in front of us. Our team knows that.”
However, the regular season ended the right way for the District 5-6A Champion Lady Bobcats (20-1-1, 12-1-1). They defeated Keller Fossil Ridge in the March 15 finale, 7-0. It was also senior night. With nothing on the line, Salyer got his starters in to play for the first half as they built a 3-0 lead. He then strategically removed them to allow younger players to get on the field.
It was the perfect way to end that part of the season. Plus, this team responded to the 2-1 loss to Keller Central on March 11 in the way Salyer had hoped. The Lady Bobcats brought the energy and intensity that was lacking.
“It was a good first half and exactly what I was looking for,” Salyer said. “We played really well. The focus is exactly what I wanted to see as we are going into the postseason.”
Strength in the middle
Salyer has put together two teams that have advanced to the then-Class 4A state soccer tournament. There’s no telling what postseason fate awaits Byron Nelson this spring.
But what Salyer does have is arguably his strongest midfield ever. Senior Katina Tsapos, junior Chaney Brugman and junior Olenka Soko have exceptional ball skills and have a plan each time they touch it.
“There’s no question that our midfield is our strength,” Salyer said. “Katina, Chaney and Olenka are very technical and are really good distributors of the all the ball. They possess the ball well and just keep everything moving.”
Soko just returned from spending the last three weeks with her Peru Under 17 team that attempted to but failed to qualify for that version of the World Cup. But Soko did face some quality teams between Venezuela and Argentina. She returned in time to play against Fossil Ridge.
“You could see the difference right away with her in the lineup,” Salyer said. “It was great to have her back.”
Junior forward Ansley Bunger has scored a career-high 30 goals going into the postseason.
Justin Northwest update
The Lady Texans (2-8-4 in District 5-6A) finished their first season under new coach Becca Willett with a 9-1 loss to district runner up Keller on March 15.