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Area schools ready to kick it up a notch

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With soccer season getting underway and three of the five schools in southern Denton County having earned playoff spots in 2013, the 2014 season promises to be an exciting one as well.

The region that regularly cranks out Division I college players and its share of professional soccer athletes is rife with talent once again and a couple of programs are expecting long playoff runs.

The Marcus boys soccer program has become synonymous with excellence, claiming state titles in 2007 and 2008, advancing to the regional finals last season and finishing with a 22-3-1 overall record.

Coach John Gall said that his team has looked good early on and said he is optimistic about 2014.

“The Marauders have had another successful off-season,” Gall said. “Preparations have again been shaped by a group of players that are fully committed to the challenges presented to them.”

Gall said he has a number of players he expects to lead the way this season for Marcus, including the following:

Sophomore, MF – Jackson Bradford: Started 100% as a freshman in central midfield.  A true competitor and will be key factor in the Marauder ‘engine-room’.

Senior, MF – Hank Steinhafel:  A three-year starter will play a more central attacking role. Brings great vision and technical ability to the Marauder attack

Senior, Def – Michael Brody: Strong, aggressive central defender who plays with his heart on his sleeve.  A commanding presence who leads by example.

Senior, Def – Logan Plunkett: Another three year starter who bleeds Marcus red. Brings an attacking minded option out in the back and has a tendency to score spectacular goals.

Junior, Fwd – Daniel Blaney: An intelligent footballer who combines well with his teammates. Has a knack to be in the right place at the right time.

Gall said that there are a number of tough district opponents and said his team will not have a night off.

“District will again be very difficult with Coppell, the current state champions, leading the pack with LISD opponents Flower Mound, Lewisville and Hebron chomping at the bit,” Gall said. “The hard working Denton Ryan players will be looking to make amends from last season and will not be overlooked.” 

Gall said the goal every year for the Marauders is to make a long playoff run, and said for his team to do so, it will take a couple of things.

“The Marauders will need to stick to their game plan and trust in their preparations,” Gall said. “Marcus will again know that they are expected to do well, and it’ll be full steam ahead to make sure those expectations are met.”

Over at Flower Mound, coach David Doyle agrees with Gall’s assessment of his district and the level of competition the Jaguars are likely to encounter this season.

“It is going to be another difficult season in our district,” Doyle said. “Any one of the six [teams] are in with a shot of the top four. We are preparing well and hope to win come March.”

Flower Mound finished 9-6-7 on the season in 2013 and was 3-3-4 in district competition. The Jaguars advanced two rounds into the playoffs.

Doyle said he expects keeper Michael Martin (senior), as well as Camden Riley (junior), John Satterla (junior), and Tyler Wettstein (senior) to be among his stronger returning players.

“These guys are experienced, and we will look to them for our leadership and composure during the season,” Doyle said.

The Flower Mound coach said he believes that Marcus and Coppell are the teams to beat in district. In order to claim a post-season berth, Doyle said the recipe is pretty simple.

“We will need to win our home games and steal a couple on the road,” Doyle said.

For the Guyer boys soccer team, a 12-9-5 record and third place finish in district competition has the Wildcats thirsty for more, and coach Cody Schroeder said that, while there is still a bit of uncertainty on his team, there is also optimism about what Guyer is capable of doing.

“Lots of question marks entering the season, but lots of players looking to be the answers,” Schroeder said. “Working extremely hard to get moving in the right direction, however, the weather has put us behind slightly by missing six practices.”

Schroeder said he has a number of players he is expecting to step up this year for the Wildcats.

“Connor Bourgeois, Jordan Reyes, Michael Munoz and Luis Muro (seniors) all are entering their third year on Varsity and should provide great leadership,” Schroeder said. 

Schroeder said the expectations for this season are to work hard, compete in every game to put themselves in position to win the district and then get momentum heading into the playoffs to make a run at the ultimate prize, a state title.

“Working hard and competing in every game is essential and to create our own good fortune,” Schroeder said. “Lots of new faces will need to quickly adjust to the varsity level in order to prepare for the upcoming district schedule.”

The Argyle boys soccer team did not have the season for which it would have hoped last year, finishing fifth overall in district 11-4A competition.

The Eagles will be led by last year’s all-district selections Brian Williams and Drew Estrada this season.

Across town at Liberty Christian, the Warriors are looking to rebound from a tough 2013 campaign that saw the team finish sixth in district, and coach Preston Philpott said he is feeling good about where his team is.

“I think expectations are quite a bit higher that we will be more competitive this season,” Philpott said. “We have a heavy junior class that has good experience, and we have under classmen including several freshmen that will contribute.”

Philpott said he expects all of his team leaders to have strong seasons, as well.

“Our four team captains include Eduardo Perez, Coleton Vick, Hugh Jeffrey, all juniors, and senior Timmy Miller,” Philpott said. “These players all have huge impact on the way we perform as a team. Also, junior Cole Austin is a welcome addition; he did not play last year. Keeper Micky Grebe will have to step up for us if we’re going to compete at a higher level. I expect him to.”

In order to rebound from last season, Philpott said his team will have to avoid injuries and have a few other things go their way.

“I think if we stay healthy, we can compete with anyone in our district,” Philpott said. “We’re usually a little undersized compared to the rest of our district, but I feel like we play with a lot of determination. Again, if we’re healthy we can put together a good season, and I think acquit ourselves well in the playoffs.”

Girls Ready to Roll

Four of the five teams in the area made the postseason in 2013, and Guyer claimed the ultimate prize, bringing home a state championship in the 4A division.

The Lady Wildcats wrapped up the season with a 28-1 overall record en route to the state title, but with a senior heavy team last year, coach Kenny Blevins said he will have a lot of inexperience on this year’s squad.

“We have been devastated by graduations last year and a rash of season ending injuries this fall,” Blevins said.

The Guyer coach said that he will have to have a number of younger players step up in order to repeat upon the success the team enjoyed last year, but added that he sill has some serious firepower returning, as well.

“Our scoring leaders will be Brittany Crabtree and Hannah Alspach,” Blevins said. “Crabtree scored 42 goals last season and is approaching 100 total goals for her career at Guyer.  Hannah Alspach was the district Most Valuable Player, as well as the State Tournament Most Valuable Player last season.”

As to how good the
Lady Wildcats can be in 2014, Blevins said that is still largely up in the air.

“Right now, it is very difficult to get firm idea of how successful this team will be,” Blevins said.  “There are many question marks to get answered with losses from graduation and injury.”

Over at Marcus High School, the Lady Marauders finished up another strong season in 2013, winning district, going 23-4-1 on the season and advancing to the regional finals.

Coach Chad Hobbs said that things are shaping up well early on for Marcus and said he is optimistic about his team’s chances headed into the season.

“Things are looking very positive for the girls at Marcus,” Hobbs said. “We have a good blend of experience and talent that we will rely on to have a successful season.”

Hobbs said the Lady Marauders also have a good mixture of offensive and defensive talent.

“I have high expectations for our senior forward Natalie Schmutz and junior forward Dani Murphy,” Hobbs said. “They both have started since they were freshmen and should create a lot of problems for our opposition.  Our defense will be very solid again with senior goalkeeper Meg Smith and senior center back Maddie Brem.  They helped our team to 23 shutouts last season.”

Marcus has also scheduled top of the line competition, including St. Thomas Aquinas, a state power from Florida, Allen, Mansfield, Keller, McKinney Boyd, Plano West, Seven Lakes, Austin Westlake, and Ursuline to ensure that they are battle tested when both district and the post-season roll around. 

“We always expect to make a run at the state championship, so that will be the goal again this year,” Hobbs said. “Having made the regional final for the last two years, I think the team knows what it takes to reach their goals.”

Across town at Flower Mound, the Lady Jaguars also claimed a postseason berth in 2013, and if not for a shoot out loss to Grapevine in the bi-district round, might have had a good playoff run of its own.

Coach Trina Hamner said that she is confident her team will have another strong season in 2014.

“We have 21 returning varsity players from last year and have added a few more to round out a pretty strong group,” Hamner said. “With 13 seniors this year, we have a lot of experience to rely on as well as girls that have been playing together for four years now. 

“Our formation has changed just a little to accommodate some new players and I look forward to watching our new players show their strengths this year.”

Hamner said she expects a number of players to have strong seasons.

“I expect Emma Heckendorn , Gabi D’Alesandro, Alexia Hix, and Kennedy Miller to really step up this year as seniors and leave it all out every game,” Hamner said. “I also look for Ariel Leach, Alex Lowery, and freshman Dawson Depperschmidt to make some trouble up front.”

Hamner said the team will just need to focus on one game at a time this season and said that the expectations are pretty lofty for the Lady Jags.

“We have set our goal to finish first in district,” Hamner said. “We know we have a lot of great teams to compete against and teams that have amazing players.”

At Argyle High School, the Lady Eagles wrapped up last season with a 13-10-2 mark in district 11-4A competition and finished fifth overall in the district standings, just one game from making the playoffs.

All-district selections Hannah Neece (19 goals) and Laine Lowery should lead the way for the Lady Eagles in 2014.

Neece is Argyle’s first and only NCAA Div. I recruit (University of Georgia), and plays club with The Sting, who won the ECNL club championship in 2013.

“This will be the first year Argyle will have a ‘class’ of seniors, with six,” coach Jennifer Goodpastor said. “Hannah Neece, Lindsey Eckert, Laine Lowry, Taylor Erwin, Madeline Caldwell, and Anna Dahms.  We also have four incoming freshmen, all of whom play club soccer.  This will be the first time in four years that Argyle will have a bench to ‘go to’ in order to keep all players fresh throughout the game.”

Down the road at Liberty Christian, the Lady Warriors made a good run into the post-season in 2013, advancing to the state semifinals before losing to perennial powerhouse Ursuline.

First year coach Sarah Hawkins said she is optimistic about her team’s chances this season, in spite of losing a lot of players to graduation.

“Things are shaping up well for our team,” Hawkins said. “Given that it’s my first year at Liberty, our team is in a year of transition. We graduated many upperclassmen last year, and we’re relying heavily on our freshman and sophomores to step up and fill crucial roles on the field.”

Hawkins said that her team will rely on the leadership of several players in 2014.

“With only two seniors and two juniors, I fully expect our upperclassmen to lead the team and take the underclassmen under their wings,” Hawkins said. “Our team captains this year are Brooke Stoermer (senior), Ashley Jenkins (senior), Sophie Standifer (junior), and Reagan Mann (sophomore). Each one of these ladies play a crucial role on our team and have different leadership styles. Brooke and Reagan are our playmakers in the middle and do a great job controlling the midfield.

“Ashley is a vocal leader and helps to rally the girls together. Sophie is coming back from an ACL tear but has been committed to the team throughout her rehabilitation and shown great leadership while on the sidelines. I’m excited for her return to the field and how she will raise the competitiveness of our team.”

In order to have another strong season, Hawkins said it will take a couple of things.

“Keeping each player healthy will determine if we are able to make a run at playoffs,” Hawkins said.  “I’m very confident with a healthy team, my girls have the ability to make the playoffs and be competitive. I’m very pleased with the freshman and sophomores that have stepped up and made an impact on the field. With every game they gain confidence and I’m excited for us to reach our full potential.”

 

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