The Stephenville High School Honeybees opened their 2019 season last Friday at home with a 10-0 domination of Class 5A Fort Worth Carter-Riverside.
“It was definitely a very good start,” SHS girls head soccer coach Casey Weil said. “Our girls were very composed, and they kept possession of the ball a lot.”
Ciara Johnston scored three goals and recorded two assists for the Honeybees, while Claire Choate, Gracie Bales and Bailie Atchley contributed two goals each.
Also for Stephenville, Haleigh Beam recorded a team-high four assists.
The Honeybees got one goal and one assist from Brinkley Harlow, and Emily Kirbo and Hailey Contreras each had one assist.
Weil led the 2017 Honeybees to a Class 4A state championship with a large group of talented freshmen and still has most of those key players on the roster — now as juniors.
Their season — and their chance at winning a second consecutive state title — ended in the regional semifinals with a 2-1 loss to Midlothian Heritage.
The 2018 team, which had a 23-4 record and was ranked fifth in the state going into that playoff setback, lost just one starter (first-team all-district Karsyn Kimbrough) and three seniors in all to graduation. The 15 returning lettermen are determined not to end this season in disappointment, according to Weil, who said he has already seen his players show their excitement and determination in the early going.
“They felt like they left a lot on the table last year,” Weil said. “Coming off a year when you win state, you have a target on your back. We let ourselves down, and we let the school down. We don’t want to let what happened last year happen again.”
As a result, Weil stated, their expectation is to win the second girls state soccer title in school history.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant or conceited,” Weil said. “It takes a special group. You have to have a lot of things go your way. But I definitely think this group has all the key components.”
The Honeybees had led Heritage 1-0, but both leading scorer Ciara Johnston and Brinkley Harlow suffered injuries later in that game and were unable to return. Heritage, ranked third at the time, rallied for two goals to grab the lead and advance to the next round.
Johnston, who was voted Co-Most Valuable Player in last year’s district, is back as a team leader once again at forward.
“She will go above and beyond to try to win. She is a competitor,” Weil said of Johnston.
Other returning Honeybees who received superlative district honors last year are Defensive MVP Beatris Chavarria, Offensive Co-MVP Gracie Bales, and Goalkeeper Co-MVP Madison Wyly. Weil was voted Coach of the Year.
All 11 SHS starters were either first-team or second-team all-district last season.
Returning first-team all-district performers for the Honeybees include Claire Choate, Haleigh Beam, and Courtney Langley. Honorable mention went to Bailie Atchley, Cheyney Carrillo and Alexi De Los Santos.
Beam, a midfielder, leads the Honeybees in assists, and “creates a lot of opportunities” for her teammates, Weil noted.
Choate is a midfielder who “has the ability to determine how we play,” Weil said.
The returnees who were second-team all-district are Emily Kirbo, Cody Hawks, Madelyn Heupel and Alyssa Northcutt.
SHS enjoys a luxury in having two standout goal keepers. Wyly and Northcutt split time at that position, and neither has any big weaknesses, according to Weil.
Chavarria, Langley and Heupel are defenders. Hawks, Carrillo and Kirbo are midfielders.
Not only is motivation not lacking, but the experience level helps raise the overall starting level of the coaching instructions.
“Nothing we do is new to them,” Weil said.
The squad, overall, is “extremely strong, fast and physical,” Weil said, adding that they don’t take winning for granted. “Everything they do is 100 percent. It’s just kind of a cultural thing."
One thing Weil said the Honeybees could improve on is in speeding up the pace of their games.
The District 4-4A alignment includes SHS and just two other schools — Brownwood and Mineral Wells. He noted that one of those two teams could be the team to beat if they reach the Region I championship for the right to advance to the state tournament.
“They’re both going to be really good soccer teams,” Weil said.