Eight years ago, a group of young Mansfield girls got together and started a soccer team. The core of that group has stuck together throughout, and now, as the team faces inevitable dismantling, it is realizing its greatest accomplishments.
Dallas Texans 00 Black FW, once known as Mansfield FC and Mansfield Samba, is preparing for the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III (Southern) Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. The team includes original members Rachel Downey, Peyton Jameson, Mandy Schneider, Kaylnn Bickford and Berkeley Koch of Mansfield High, and Olivia Jackson and Kamryn Blevins from Mansfield Legacy.
Some of them will play academy next year. Some will play high school. A few will still play together. Others won’t.
“We’ve been working so hard together since a long time ago,” Bickford said. “It’s really awesome, I’m really excited about it because I wasn’t ready for our season to be over yet.”
The season started with high expectations after finishing mid-table in Division I of the Lake Highlands Classic League. The climb started when coach Ben Williams took control of the club three years ago, when it was a second-division level program.
“A lot of those girls had played together for a long time, and they’re still together,” he said. “The talent was always there, it was a just a little bit untapped. It really didn’t take us long to tap into it.”
This season, Texans 00 Black not only won its league, it won the North Texas State Cup, along with several other prestigious tournaments.
“We sat down at the beginning of the year and set out our goals, and they knocked every single one of them out of the park,” Williams said. “This year we rocked and rolled. We cleaned up everything. They’ve come a long way, that group of girls, from where they were three years ago.”
“I think over the years we’ve been working toward this,” Schneider said. “It’s really exciting for us to go this far as our last run together. During the State Cup, our coach would use that for motivation, for us to really dig deep. That final would have been our last game to play together, which would have been really sad and depressing.”
The team can prolong its swan song with a victory in the regional tournament, which would send it to the national championships in July. Either way, this summer will be its last together on the field.
“It’s hard to know that we won’t be playing together any longer, since we’ve been playing together for so long,” Bickford said. “Splitting up is just kind of sad.”
Williams is quick to point out the split shouldn’t be looked upon negatively, given that it’s largely because these girls have become elite players at their age level. The coach is also quick to give a lot of credit for the team’s success to the chemistry it has developed over all those years together.
“It’s a talented group of girls, but I’d be remiss to say the chemistry those girls have didn’t play a factor in the success we’ve been able to have,” he said. “Because it’s such a tight-knit group, part of our success came undoubtedly from that chemistry.”
If the ride does come to an end Greensboro, Jameson knows there’s still a future for them, even it isn’t together on the pitch.
“They’re like my family, so our friendship isn’t ending, just playing together,” she said. “And I’ll still play with some of them, just not all of them.”