If three makes a trend, then the Grapevine girls soccer program hopes it means a trip to Georgetown next month.
Grapevine (16-3, 13-1 District 8-5A) made the Class 5A state tournament in 2015 and 2016. But those were veteran teams. Head coach Steve McBride has a much different team this spring than he has had in the previous two seasons. The 2016 team lost 13 players to graduation.
There has been a youth movement. If this team is going to return to Central Texas, the youngsters are going to have to grow up fast.
Grapevine opens the playoffs against Fort Worth Trimble Tech in the bi-district round at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Grapevine’s Mustang-Panther Stadium.
There have been times when the starting lineup has shown four freshmen and consistently has featured three. Other things have changed. Grapevine’s undefeated district winning streak was snapped at 84 games (eight years) when it lost to Birdville.
“It’s kind of a 50-50 squad, because the turnover from the team is quite large,” McBride said. “But we knew what we had coming back were some key players. We have some really good freshmen and sophomores.”
However, the season did not start the way McBride wanted. Early-year cold weather problems wiped out one preseason tournament. However, the team was able to play in its second tournament in Austin.
The advantage to playing those early matches before district is that a coaching staff can use the time to get a sense of where this young team needed to improve and where it could take advantage of strengths.
One of those early tests was against national power Coppell. Underclassmen-filled Grapevine lost 1-0 when Coppell scored in the final minutes.
“Really, we came to the conclusion as coaches that it really doesn’t matter in January what happens,” McBride said. “You take your lumps and you find out how to get better. We played in some tightly contested games.”
One of those was after the loss to Birdville. Consider that this program didn’t know what it felt like to be on the short end of a game in February and March for close to a decade. Like anything, all streaks end. McBride said this team regrouped and knew that it had more of the season to play.
While there has been youth, McBride has counted on several veterans to set the trend. That starts with senior fullback Haylee Hulse (signed with Central Arkansas) and junior midfielder Sophie Smith. The program also saw a familiar face return. Megan Conte moved back from Boston to finish her senior year as the center midfielder.
Youngsters have been able to play all three levels of the field. Freshman Taylor Dellosso can play on either the front, middle or back line. Freshman Tori Margiotta has slipped in at center midfield and other spots. Freshman Sidney McGregor can play all four spots on the defense.
“From the ground up, we’ve seen this evolve,” McBride said. “I’m pretty fortunate to come here and been able to get to the state tournament twice. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. But we the let the girls have their own identity and guide their own path.”