No doubt, you will recall that the Stephenville High School girls soccer team won it all last year.
Well, not quite everything.
Coach Casey Weil’s Honeybees did capture the Class 4A state championship last year, downing Boerne by a 2-1 margin in the title game. They finished with a school-best girls soccer season record of 25-4.
It was the first state championship for the school’s girls soccer program.
One thing the Honeybees didn’t get a year ago was an outright district championship. Last season, Abilene Wylie and Stephenville finished tied and were co-champions of District 4-4A. The Honeybees then entered the 2017 playoffs as the No. 2 seed because of the district’s goal differential tiebreaker, while the Lady Bulldogs went in as the district’s No. 1 seed.
Although no one would trade a state crown for an outright district title, the Honeybees do have their eyes on clinching first place, all alone.
They have their chance to do that Tuesday, when they return to action from spring break for a 5 p.m. contest at Wylie’s Bulldog Stadium. The 19-2 Honeybees lead the pack with a 7-0 mark, while Wylie is 5-2. Stephenville’s final regular-season game will be Friday, March 22, at Lem Brock Field for Senior Night as the Honeybees take on Brownwood before moving on to the playoffs.
“We’ve never won it outright,” Weil said after a recent practice. “A district championship — you always want to win. We’ve never had one. It would be great to say we are outright champs.”
The Honeybees’ last game, a 1-0 win over Mineral Wells at home on March 9, was their 12th victory in a row.
“The district games are a stepping stone for the playoffs,” Weil said.
This year’s team has 18 who earned varsity letters last season. It features a remarkably talented group of 13 sophomores, many of whom helped lift the Honeybees to elite status when they were freshmen last season.
Weil had an interesting take on that sophomore group and what they accomplished a year ago as freshmen — that their perspective may be a little different than his as they seek a second straight state championship.
“I don’t think that it’s truly even set in, what they actually did,” said Weil, who is in his 11th season as the SHS girls soccer coach. “We have the ability to do something unbelievably great. I think they have the ability to win it again.”
One of the sophomores, forward Ciara Johnston, leads the Honeybees in scoring this year. She had a hot streak earlier this season when she recorded hat tricks (three goals in a game) in three separate outings.
The team’s top two assist leaders are Haleigh Beam, a sophomore midfielder, and Johnston.
Beam, Johnston and sophomore defender Beatris Chavarria were voted to last year’s state all-tournament team in Georgetown. Johnston and Chavarria were voted first-team all-state.
Still another one of the current sophomores, goal keeper Madison Wyly, is now back in action after missing the first 15 games of the season because of a knee problem. She was the primary goal keeper in 2017.
In Wyly’s absence, junior Alyssa Northcutt was outstanding in goal for the Honeybees. They have posted shutouts in 12 of their last 13 games, and have allowed just five goals in all. In their 2017 state championship season, they allowed nine goals in their 29 games.
The Honeybees are also getting more help with the return of senior midfielder Alexis De los Santos and sophomore midfielder Brinkley Harlow, who also have been sidelined with injuries. De los Santos, who had a pesky high ankle sprain, did not play in last Friday’s game, but will see more playing time down the stretch.
The only other seniors on this year’s team besides De los Santos are forward Natalie Elizondo and midfielder Karsyn Kimbrough.
“Their attitude about the game, how they take coaching, how they make adjustments — I knew this team would be outstanding the next couple of years,” Weil said of the squad. “The girls love the game so much that we could come out and do anything with a soccer ball and they’re going to enjoy it.”
The practice session on this particular day was filled with happy faces and good-natured chatter throughout, indicative of a team with confidence, enjoying the process and the challenge ahead.
“But we’ve got a huge target on our backs,” Weil said. “Our girls, when it’s a big game, we always perform at the highest level we can. They get up for the big games. The thing I see (this season) is, we’re a little more experienced. Their composure and the way we play the game, I think this year we could potentially be a better team. Their confidence level is very high.”