The scope of what Stephenville High School’s girls soccer team could accomplish this season is of historic proportions.
Coach Casey Weil’s Honeybees have won the Class 4A girls state soccer championships in two of the last three years (in 2017 and 2019). University Interscholastic League records show that no Texas high school girls soccer team in their classification has won three state titles within a span of four years.
The girls soccer programs at Highland Park (seven state championships) and Plano West (six) both have had greater success over longer time frames, but both are in UIL classifications larger than 4A.
The last Class 4A school to win back-to-back girls soccer state championships was Kennedale, in 2015 and 2016.
The Texas Association of Soccer Coaches preseason rankings for 2020 listed Kennedale at No. 1 in Class 4A, followed by Argyle at No. 2, San Elizario No. 3 and SHS at No. 4. The Texas Girls Coaches Association’s preseason poll had Stephenville ranked No. 1 in the state.
Kennedale was the team the Honeybees opened the season against on Tuesday at Lem Brock Field. The Bees led 1-0 at halftime before adding two more goals in the second half for a 3-1 victory.
Ciara Johnston scored a goal and had one assist, while Tori Cameron and Gracie Bales had one goal each. Claire Choate notched one assist.
The slow start in the first half might be attributed to the fact the Bees were given two weeks off, without practice, during the Christmas break — something Weil believes is important.
“I want them to be high school kids,” the coach said. “I want my girls to be excited and ready to play at the correct time of the season.”
He was pleased that the Bees not only competed well coming out of the layoff, but defeated a Kennedale team that he said is “extremely talented.”
He added that the mistakes the Bees made were “easily corrected.”
“They always find a way to win,” said Weil, who is starting his 13th season as head coach of the SHS girls soccer program. “They understand what the expectations are.”
The Bees are scheduled to play this weekend in a tournament in Fredericksburg. Their next home game will be Tuesday, Jan. 14 against Alvarado (varsity at 5:30 p.m.).
The 2017 SHS girls squad that won the first soccer championship in school history was even more remarkable in the fact that there were nine freshmen in the starting lineup.
“I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year,” Weil said of that squad.
The 13 seniors on the 2020 team are: Madison Wyly, Beatris Chavarria, Claire Choate, Haleigh Beam, Jimena Espinoza, Daisy Richards, Brinkley Harlow, Cheney Carrillo, Autumn Seemann, Ciara Johnston, Gracie Bales, Courtney Langley and Bailie Atchley.
Underclassmen on the varsity squad include Shawna Morrow, Ella Brown, Anna Roack, Emmaleigh Daniel, Ansley Meza, Haley Lopez, Victoria Cameron, Kathryn Cameron, Brooklynn Langford, Abby Harrison, Madisyn Cole and Bella Diaz.
Unfortunately, Cole suffered a knee injury (torn anterior cruciate ligament) playing soccer in the offseason and may be lost for the season, according to Weil.
Entering the regular season, Weil said the starters are Morrow (as goal keeper while Wyly is sidelined), along with Chavarria, Choate, Beam, Espinoza, Richards, Harlow, Carrillo, Johnston, Bales and Langley.
With the 13 seniors having so much experience as well as talent, many fans may be expecting them to repeat as the state champion this year.
But Weil and his players know that’s much easier said than done.
“When you do something like this, expectations are extremely high. It just seems like it has become the norm,” Weil said. “What people don’t understand is that it’s not easy to build a program like we have. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be given to us.”
He noted that being the defending state champion puts a target on the backs of the players, motivating opponents.
“That’s why it’s so hard to go back-to-back,” Weil said. “There is no game where you don’t get someone’s best.”
The Bees may have learned not to get ahead of themselves in 2018 when they were knocked off by eventual state champion Midlothian Heritage in the regional semifinals, 2-1. Too much talk that year may have contributed to their downfall, Weil observed. Now, they let their action on the field speak for itself.
“I talk about winning state more than they do,” Weil said. “The girls, they don’t want to talk about it. They’re very understanding of what we have to do. This group has been together a long time.”
In fact, Weil said, the core group of players who were key performers as freshmen on the 2017 state championship squad now have been playing together on the same offseason club team since they were about 10 years old.
“They want to stay humble. They would rather worry about right now,” Weil said.
2019 STATE TITLE
The Region I champion Honeybees captured the 2019 crown with a 2-0 victory over Region III representative Liberty Hill in the state title game in Georgetown. SHS forward Ciara Johnston, now a senior, was named as the Most Valuable Player in the state tournament. SHS finished with a 25-1-2 record, losing only to Brownwood in a district matchup. Liberty Hill had a 24-4-2 record.
The 2019 Bees had three first-team all-state players on that team — goal keeper Madison Wyly, midfielder Beatris Chavarria and Johnston. Gracie Bales, a forward for the Bees, earned second-team all-state honors. They all were juniors and are among the returnees this season, although Wyly will sidelined for about a month after suffering a broken finger during a preseason scrimmage versus Lorena.
The 2019 Bees set a girls soccer school record for team scoring in a season, with 154 goals — an average of 5.5 per game. On defense, the Bees allowed just 12 goals in all, ranking second in school history behind the all-time mark of eight in 2017.
After the Bees won state in 2017, Chavarria was voted second-team all-state and Bales was honorable mention all-state.
Despite last year’s district loss, the only two league foes — Mineral Wells and Brownwood — are not expected to be strong. Godley recently added soccer and will be joining the district next season, after playing only a junior varsity schedule this season.
Johnston was the top scorer for SHS last season with 58 goals, and also led in assists, with 28. Bales was second in scoring with 30 goals, and was third in assists with 20. Choate was third in scoring with 15 and Chavarria was fourth with 12.
Also in 2019, Wyly and reserve goal keeper Alyssa Northcutt (who graduated in May) combined to post 20 shutouts in the 28 games played, and gave up just one goal six times.
Weil the District 6-4A Coach of the Year, and in July he received the Texas Girls Coaches Association’s 2019 Coach of the Year Award for all Texas UIL girls soccer teams (Class 4A, 5A and 6A). Earlier, he had been honored as the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches Class 4A Girls Coach of the Year.
The Bees’ physical style of play begins with time spent working and sweating in the weight room.
“The past two years, I don’t know that there’s anybody that plays as physical as we do,” Weil said.
The Bees also have outstanding team depth, speed and endurance — and play a physical brand of soccer most teams can’t handle.
But what else does it take to win a state soccer championship?
“Obviously (it takes) talent, but having team chemistry is one of the biggest things you have to have,” Weil said, “They have to stay together. They have to believe in one another. As long as they keep that, they can accomplish anything.
“If we can maintain that and play the way we’re taught, and play our style of soccer, I think we have a really good chance of repeating.”