Expectations are high this year for the Wylie Girls Varsity Soccer Team.
The team made history last year by advancing to the regional finals – no Wylie soccer team had ever gone that far in the playoffs – and that team returns basically in tact with another years experience under their belts.
The Lady Bulldogs return 14 lettermen, who have all gotten valuable playing experience together.
“We are heavy in upper classmen, and we are all used to each other by now,” said senior defender Brooke Dulin.
She said that helps the chemistry on the field.
“It just flows,” she said. “I just know what they are thinking.”
That team chemistry is a huge advantage for the Lady Bulldogs.
“We play really well together,” said Peyton Cunningham. “We have some new starters, but we all play well together. It’s mostly getting the formations right.”
Although the team is mostly the same as last year, one big change comes at goalkeeper. For the first time in four years, Wylie will have someone new in the box. Sophomore Chrystina Hirschman takes over for 4-year starter Laura Faz.
“Chrystina has been really great,” said coach Manuel Cordova. “It’s just a growing process for her. She’s very athletic. She’s got some qualities that will help her develop into a great goalie.”
The Lady Bulldogs start their season with a very tough early schedule against some of the toughest teams in the state, including early matchups with Kennedale, the two-time defending state champions, Wichita Falls Ryder, a 5A school, and Permian, a 6A school.
Brooke said the difficult schedule will help the team grow.
“I think it is a good thing,” she said. “We will find out what our problems are, and we are able to work them out early in the season.”
The Lady Bulldogs open district play Feb. 10 and will play each district opponent three times.
The girls said the team wants to improve on last year’s record-setting year. Coach Cordova said the girls are working hard to meet that goal.
“I want us to set high goals,” he said. “They are working toward those. You set high goals but if you don’t work toward them, they are just dreams. The difference is the work you put into it.”
Peyton said last year’s successful season has taught the girls what it takes to accomplish that goal.
“We know the work we have to put into it,” Peyton said. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park. We want to get one step further than we did last year. We have to work that much harder every day.”
The team is expected to once again go deep into the playoffs, but Brooke said the team does not let those high expectations bother them.
“I feel like we still keep the same mindset,” she said. “We play how we always play. I feel like personally, I strive to do my best. I don’t want to settle.”
The experience gained during deep playoff runs the last two years in a row, will be a huge help to the Lady Bulldogs once the playoffs come around this year. But standing in Wylie’s way is Kennedale, who knocked the Lady Bulldogs out of the playoffs the last two years in a row and won state championships both years.
“We know what to expect. We are not going into it blind.” Brooke said. “We have to get by Kennedale.”