Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Excitement builds as high school soccer season kicks off

As the high school soccer season gets underway, the programs of southern Denton County are gearing up for what promises to be another exciting year on the pitch.

Long a hotbed of soccer talent, North Texas regularly sees its teams make long runs into the postseason and local teams have certainly claimed their fair share of titles.

The Marcus boys reached the regional quarterfinals last season and have several strong returning players from 2022-23.

Coach Sam Garza said he is optimistic about what he has seen from his team so far this season, and said he anticipates a strong effort.

“I feel like the guys have been working hard and have been focused going into this year,” Garza said. “We were regional quarterfinalists last season, and I believe the lads are hungry to go even further this year.”

Aidan Henle and Cale Glover should lead the way this season for the Marauders, along with team captain Owen Gall, as well as Kyle Zeller, Artian Rifati and Chase Ficke.

Marcus finished fourth in District 6-6A last season before advancing three rounds into the playoffs, and Garza said to make another run his team will need to have a few things.

“It’s going to take a selfless, unified group who is willing to work for each other every single day,” Garza said.

Over at Flower Mound, the Jaguars have 25 seniors on their roster this season, and coach David Doyle is pleased with how things are shaping up so far.

Keep an eye on Colby DeLeeuw, Landon DeLeeuw, Morgan English, Dylan Traver and Carter Simpson for the Jaguars this season.

Flower Mound lost in the bi-district round of the playoffs last season, and Doyle said to compete for a playoff spot in 2024, it boils down to two basic things.

“We need to get off to a good start in district play and be ahead of four other teams at the end,” Doyle said.

For the Coram Deo boys, 2024 could be a breakthrough season, as coach Justin Harrison, who coaches both the boys’ and girls’ programs at CDA said his team is looking pretty hungry.

“This year is an exciting season for our boys,” Harrison said. “We have taken some big steps as a program and are eager this year to compete for a place in the postseason.”

Captains Grayson Headley and Simon Campos, and keeper Zach Orlov should be among the team leaders for the Lions this year.

Coram Deo finished fifth in district last season, and Harrison said his team is looking to build on last season’s progress.

“Last season we took a big step in learning to compete,” Harrison said. “This year will be about applying what we learned from our past. We have a great group of young men who are ready to get going in district. Sticking together and being disciplined in the details will be what we need to do in order to accomplish our postseason goals.”

In Argyle, Liberty Christian is hoping to get things back on track after missing the postseason in 2023.

Coach Jose Anduray said he is optimistic about what he has seen early on.

“We’ve played a really heavy schedule so far,” Anduray said. “Most of the games we’ve played so far have been against 6A teams. It’s been better competition.”

Anduray said he is fielding mainly freshmen and sophomores this season, but said Aiden Allred, Edgar Suarez, Carter Holmes, Kyle Kozminski and Michael Stump are all strong returning players for Liberty.

For the Warriors to compete for a postseason berth, Anduray said it will take a couple of things.

“We know what we have, we just don’t know what the opponent has,” Anduray said. “We will definitely have to win our home games for us to make the playoffs, and win at least two road games.”

Over at Argyle High School, coach Marcus Koke is taking over as boy’s head coach after coaching the girl’s team for the last eight seasons.

Koke said that based on what he has seen from his team to this point in the season, 2023-24 could be a good year for the Eagles.

“Things are going well,” Koke said. “The boys had a very young team last year with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores getting significant playing time. We also had an injury to one of our key players last year with Austin Roberts breaking his collarbone early in district play. With that being said, Austin is back from his injury, and we have a lot of players returning with varsity experience.”

Roberts, Will Troseth, Kayden Ayala, Anthony Ruvalcaba, Beckham Burns and Cross Horton should be among the team leaders for Argyle this season.

The Eagles finished 11-8 overall and went 6-6 in district competition, just missing the postseason with a fifth-place showing.

Koke said to claim one of the top four spots in district this season, it will take two things.

“We have to stay healthy and continue to develop our chemistry together,” Koke said.

Up in Denton, the Guyer boy’s soccer team finished 6-6-2 in District 5-6A competition in 2022-23 and tied for fourth place overall.

The Wildcats did not make the playoffs, however, and are looking to get over the hump this season.

Look for Hunter Sauser to help lead the way for Guyer this season.

Down in Justin, the Northwest soccer team went 13-12 last season and were bi-district champions.

Coach Aaron Monaghen said he likes what he has seen from his team as the season gets underway.

“There’s a lot of promise for Texan soccer this year in our last go around in 5A,” Monaghen said. “We have a good crop of returning upperclassmen mixed with some up-and-coming youngsters that are eager to prove something.”

Javier Herrera, Uli Urtiz, Noah Hinote, Grayson Bowler and Greyson Steele will be among the players to watch for the Texans this season, and Monaghen said to make the postseason, Northwest will “need to avoid injuries to key players.”

Girls Have Big Goals

Hopes are high for the girl’s programs in southern Denton County and one program, in particular, is looking to make a splash on the national stage for the second straight year.

The Marcus girls program finished 26-1-1 in 2023, won a district, regional and state championship and was ranked second nationally.

Coach Erin Smith said her team is hoping to pick up right where it left off this season and said so far, the signs are pretty good.

“Preseason was a great time for our team to bond and learn how to work well together,” Smith said. “We are eager to get our season underway with tournaments and district play after the holiday break. We returned multiple key players from last season, as well as added some fresh faces to the bunch. We’ve got strong leadership from both experienced and new players, and we are hoping to have another successful season this year.”

Players to watch for the Lady Marauders in 2023-24 include Bry Russell, Savannah Wylie, Allie Williams, Maddie Hayes, Madi Patterson, Piper Garcia and Emma Fioretti.

Smith said that while she is proud of what her team was able to accomplish in 2022-23, the players and coaches will need to refocus if they want to have another long playoff run this season.

“Last year was loads of fun, but it has no bearing on the new season ahead of us,” Smith said. “We have to focus on one game at a time and bring our best to the pitch every Tuesday and Friday night. Like all teams battling in our competitive district, we have to do our best to avoid injury and keep players healthy. Additionally, we’ve got to do our homework on every team we face and prepare diligently for each match.”

Over at Flower Mound, the Lady Jags finished 15-5-1 and went 9-4-1 in district competition last year.

Coach Misail Tsapos said that based on what he has seen so far this year, he is cautiously optimistic.

“Practices are going well and have been intense, but until we play games, I will not get a true picture of what we will look like,” Tsapos said.

Captains Sawyer Kohutek and Ally Pinto should lead the way for the Lady Jaguars this season.

Flower Mound reached the bi-district round of the postseason last year, and to make another playoff appearance, Tsapos said the formula is pretty simple.

“We have to do well at home and hope to get some good results on the road,” Tsapos said.

For Coram Deo Academy, 2023-24 is looking pretty bright, as the Lady Lions return a strong core of returning talent.

“Our girls are looking to be as competitive this year as we were last year,” Harrison said. “I have a lot of confidence in this group of young ladies that we can be competing for the top places in District.

Players to watch for Coram Deo include Captain Brooke Orlov, Cameron Bowman, and Captain Abby McCalley.

Coram Deo went 5-3 in district last season, and Harrison said that the Lady Lions have a shot at a district title if they have good team chemistry.

“We will need to become a really close group,” Harrison said. “We have a strong returning group of juniors and a really exciting group of freshmen this season. If we can get them all on the same page I believe we can compete for district.”

Over in south Denton, the Guyer girl’s soccer team went 9-8-4 overall last season and coach Mandy Hall said she got almost everybody back.

“We are returning a lot of players from last season and are seeing players step up and play with more confidence on the ball,” Hall said. “I think experience will be in our favor this year, and we are looking to be competitive in our district run with some of the top teams in the state.”

Some of those players include Emerson Garcia (Baylor), and Reese Allen.

For Guyer to have a successful season in 2023-24, Hall said it would take a couple of things.

“We need to play confidently and on our front foot,” Hall said. “We are looking to go at teams and play aggressively to go get wins. Our district is one of the top two in the state as far as quality of team so each game is a big one, but we are looking to play our style and try to put teams on their heels and use that momentum.”

In Argyle, Rikki Lucido takes the reins for the Lady Eagles this season and has been impressed by some of her younger player’s efforts so far.

“We are excited to kick off this season,” Lucido said. “Although we lost a lot of talent with a graduating senior class, we have a lot of young talent coming in who are going to be game changers. This offseason, we have been putting a lot of emphasis on our team culture and building our team chemistry on and off the field.

“I think that will really pay off down the road. We kicked off our first scrimmage against Midlothian Heritage and although we had quite a few players out, we saw a lot of really great things and had a lot of girls step up for us.

Players to watch for Argyle include captains KK Combs, Gracie Lee and Stella Helm.

Lucido said Cassidy Horton, Hannah Lee, Sophie Cojanu, Emma Bassinger, Hannah Solano and Abby Gwinn “are all going to have a great year,” adding “many of them are young, but are very talented and have a bright future ahead of them.”

Lucido said Argyle will “need to stay healthy, stay committed to building our team chemistry and culture, and keep building our captains into strong leaders who will carry this team,” to make the playoffs.

Argyle finished 18-5-2 overall with a district record of 11-2.

Over at Liberty Christian, the Lady Warriors lost a lot of firepower from last year’s team, but still have one of the best goalkeepers in the state in Ava Riley back for her senior year.

Look for Riley, along with Anna Kristynik, Elizabeth Fouts, Karys Vera and Karlee Dark to set the tone for Liberty this season.

Out in Justin, the Northwest girls soccer team finished 12-11 overall last season with a 6-4 mark in district competition.

The Lady Texans defeated FW South Hills in the bi-district round before falling in the area final.

Keep an eye on Natalia Rivera for the Lady Texans this season.

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