How do you top winning the first girls soccer championship in Stephenville High School history?
Winning back-to-back titles wouldn’t be half bad, would it?
That quest begins Tuesday, when the Honeybees open their season schedule with an away game, taking on Waco High School. The junior varsity contest is set for 5:30 p.m., followed by the varsity at 7.
The Honeybees defeated Boerne in the Class 4A state championship game last April in Georgetown, 2-1.
Coach Casey Weil lost four seniors to graduation last May from that team, including sweeper Savannah Alford who was one of four Honeybees named to the all-state tournament team, and was named as the tourney’s Most Valuable Player.
The good news is that all three of the others who earned spots on that all-state tournament team — Ciara Johnston, Haleigh Beam and Beatris Chavarria — were freshmen. And Chavarria and Johnston were voted first-team all-state.
And, as they say on the TV infomercials, that’s not all.
Among the 18 returning lettermen are seven other freshmen who gained varsity experience on the way to the team’s history-making 25-4 campaign. Amazingly, nine of the freshmen ended up working their way into the starting lineup.
Two of the team’s losses were by one point, and two were in shootouts.
The Honeybees made their deepest mark on defense, allowing opponents to score only nine goals in their 29 games.
Having so many young players in key roles wasn’t always smooth, according to Weil, and the Honeybees lost three of their district games before blowing through the playoffs unscathed. And Weil left no doubt that the seniors will be missed.
“The main thing we lost last year was our leadership. That team could have gone really good or really bad. I think the seniors kept that together. It took a while to gel and come together,” said Weil, a former soccer player at Texas Wesleyan University who is in his 11th season as the head girls soccer coach at SHS. “We kept getting better every game, and I definitely think the seniors (did that).”
Other key performers back this season include midfielder Claire Choat, sweeper Courtney Langley and of course goal keeper Madison Wyly. Beam is a midfielder. Wyly is returning from a knee problem, but is expected to be back in the starting lineup soon.
Senior midfielder Carson Kimbro missed last season when she had to have knee surgery three times to repair damage suffered after starting as a sophomore. Weil is optimistic she could be back in the lineup early this season.
“Every single one of them are important in some shape or fashion,” Weill said. “They all have a role on the team.”
In the wake of the state championship excitement, 70 girls came out for soccer this year. Fifty-five players remain, between the varsity, JV and freshman squads. Weil said that about 25-30 girls came out for soccer in his first season at SHS.
Weil said the top characteristic that stood out about the state championship squad overall was its work ethic.
“They were undoubtedly the hardest working bunch I’ve ever had here in soccer. I think that’s why they are getting better and moving in the right direction as they all push each other.” said Weil, who has notched 194 career victories, four district championships and five district Coach of the Year awards.
There were other key factors as well, starting with the Honeybees’ basic style of play.
“Our energy, our physicality. It’s hectic, it’s chaos,” Weil said. “We’re very intimidating. We don’t allow (opponents) to have time to do what they want to do.
“Defensively we were so good because we played defense as a unit. That poses a lot of problems for the opposing teams.
Weil added that the players will have a chance to gaze at that 2017 state trophy ever day as an inspiration — if they need one.
“Motivation is not something they particularly need. Once they got a taste of it, they were ready to get back to it," he said. "They want another one.”
Weil remains appreciative of the girls’ landmark effort last season.
“They gave me something that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Weil said.