Wylie added soccer to its Junior High sports offerings this spring, giving young soccer players an opportunity to get some experience prior to high school.
The program was a big hit with students with about 100 boys and girls in 7th– and 8th grades showing up for tryouts.
“I went to sign up as soon as they told me about it,” said Alen Herrera, a Wylie 8th-grader. “I got really excited. I really wanted to play for the school.”
Forty boys and 40 girls were chosen for two boys’ teams and two girls’ teams.
Each team was a mix of 7th-graders and 8th-graders.
“It was a fun experience,” said Wylie 7th-grader Sanay Salvi. “It’s a great experience playing against older people. They were really tall and strong. It was really tough.”
The Wylie teams each played games against teams from the four Abilene middle schools and then played the other Wylie team, giving them a season of five games.
Athletic Director Hugh Sandifer said when the AISD started Junior High soccer that gave Wylie teams to play and allowed Wylie to also add Junior High soccer.
“Hopefully it will promote some better play when they get to high school,” he said. “I thought it went well. It gives them a little ground work for when they come to high school.”
That’s why Sanay wanted to play with his school.
“It’s great preparation for high school,” he said. “It gives you a taste of what’s to come.”
Both Sanay and Alen have played soccer since they were young and have played at a high level on competitive teams. But the students who played school soccer were a mix of experienced and inexperienced players. But Alen said the inexperienced players did a good job.
“Some kids didn’t play soccer before, and I had to teach them a little bit of the basics,” he said. “But I was really surprised. A lot of kids that I didn’t think played soccer – they did. They didn’t have a lot of experience, but they were really good.”
Clay Vaughn and Chris Kincaid coached the boys’ teams, and Jacob Balleza and Robert Alvarez coached the girls’ teams. The two girls’ teams tied for 2nd place and then played each other and tied 1-1.
Coach Balleza said the first year was a success, and he hopes it will continue next year.
“It will only benefit the high school programs because athletes can start practicing techniques they learned and continue to build a chemistry with each other,” he said. “The more they play together, the better they will understand each other on the playing field.”
The boys’ teams were not as successful, but Coach Vaughn said the kids gained a lot from the experience.
“Their talent level was very high, and we were able to do some very good things playing against the other Abilene middle schools,” he said. “I believe the program will continue. It will only help to increase the level of performance at the high school because it will get the boys used to playing on the soccer field next to each other.”