The head coach of the 2017 state champion Stephenville Honeybees soccer team said he still believes they were the best Class 4A squad in the state this year, and the all-district voting indicates the other coaches in the league appreciated their talent as well.
Led by superlative honorees Ciara Johnston, Beatris Chavarria, Madison Wyly and Gracie Bales, eight Honeybees were named first-team all-District 4-4A in voting by the coaches. And SHS head coach Casey Weil was voted Coach of the Year.
Johnston was voted Co-MVP along with Randie Dennison of Abilene Wylie. Chavarria is the Defensive MVP. Gracie Bales is the Offensive Co-MVP along with Gracie McCaslin of Wylie. Wyly is the Goalkeeper Co-MVP along with Reagan Carter of Mineral Wells.
The other first-team all-district Honeybees are Claire Choate, Haleigh Beam, Courtney Langley and Karsyn Kimbrough.
Second-team all-district honors were earned by Emily Kirbo, Cody Hawks, Madelyn Heupel and Alyssa Northcutt.
All 11 starters for the Honeybees were voted either first-team or second-team all-district.
Also for SHS, Bailie Atchley, Cheyney Carrillo and Alexis De Los Santos received honorable mention.
“We had a lot of girls recognized, and a lot of superlatives,” Weil said. “We did really well.”
Chavarria and Johnston were voted first-team all-state last season, but those honor teams for 2018 will be announced later.
Johnston led the Honeybees for the season in both goals, with 31, and assists, with 19. Wylie allowed only three goals in nine district games. Bales was second in scoring with 19 goals, and her 10 assists tied for third on the squad with Choate and Madison Carter. As a defender, Chavarria had six assists and three goals. Beam was second in assists on the year, with 13.
The Honeybees were ranked fifth in the state when their season ended Friday with a 2-1 loss to third-ranked Midlothian Heritage in their Region I-4A semifinal playoff game at the Birdville ISD Fine Arts and Athletic Complex in North Richland Hills.
The Honeybees had to finish Friday’s match without Johnston, their leading scorer. She suffered a broken right arm in a fall with 15:17 left on the clock in the second half, with the team holding a 1-0 lead. The Lady Jaguars took advantage of that jolt to the Honeybees just 25 seconds later when they scored to tie it, 1-1. They added the winning goal with 14:52 left.
“I think we were the best team in the state,” Weil said. “That’s what makes it tough to take.”
However, Weil admitted, the Honeybees also had “more than enough opportunities to score,” that didn’t happen.
The loss ended Stephenville’s season at 23-4, one year after they had won the school’s first-ever girls soccer state title.
Weil guided the Honeybees to the 2017 state crown with a group of 13 freshmen taking many lead roles. This season, as more seasoned sophomores, that group had offered hope for one or more repeats as the queens of Class 4A soccer.
But Heritage, with a physically rugged style of play, prevailed by a 2-1 margin.
“The better team, I don’t feel, won that day,” Weil said.
Heritage then knocked off District 4-4A runner-up Abilene Wylie, 1-0, in the regional final on Saturday to advance to this week’s state tournament.
The Honeybees are expecting all of their players to return next season except for seniors Karsyn Kimbrough, a starter, along with De Los Santos and Natalie Elizondo.
Hawks, Kirbo, Heupel and Northcutt, along with Tanja Pederson and Alex Cameron are juniors. The other varsity team members on the all-district team, along with Jimena Espinoza, Daisy Richards, Brinkley Harlow, are sophomores.
With the remaining talent only gaining more and more valuable experience, the outlook for the next couple of years could bring another title or two back to Stephenville.
“They play well together, and they complement each other well,” Weil said. “We have a huge core coming back. I’m super excited. I can’t wait to get rolling again.
“From last year to this year, I think we got better. They’ll have that hunger. I told them to remember this feeling, and don’t let it happen again.”