Girls Soccer: Spring aims to build on last season’s success
The Spring Lions girls soccer team returned to the playoffs for the first time in six years last season.
They didn’t sneak in either.
The Lions clinched their long-awaited postseason return by securing their first district championship in 20 years, going 11-2-1 in District 16-6A behind prolific goal scorer Alessandra Rivera.
“It’s definitely something we can build on,” coach Annie Hero said. “It’s a foundational move for us, and we want to win district again, we want to have more wins, we don’t want it to be such a close call … and we want to prove we can compete outside our district as well by, hopefully, advancing on this year.”
That’s the biggest goal – get back in the playoffs, and then win.
The Lions saw their first appearance since 2011 cut short, despite earning a top seed, with a 3-0 bi-district loss to Klein Collins.
The long journey back begins Thursday, Jan. 11, at the Willis Kat Cup.
Hero is leading the charge after three years as an assistant at Spring, most recently under former coach Melissa Jones, who took the program to heights it hadn’t reached since winning district in 1997.
“It’s really exciting,” the first-year coach said. “It’s also nerve-wracking because I have some big shoes to fill after Melissa’s departure.”
Hero said Jones taught her the importance of discipline inside a winning program.
“I learned setting expectations high for the girls is important, and so is understanding they can achieve those goals with hard work,” Hero said. “Talent only wins about 75 percent of your games, so you can’t rely on talent alone.
“You’ve got to be disciplined and committed to a winning attitude on and off the field.”
You also need versatility, and players willing to fill any role, even one foreign to them previously. The Lions had that last year, which is why they were Spring ISD’s only playoff qualifier in soccer.
″(Jones) recognized our girls have the talent and the ability to do well,” Hero said.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of re-teaching them that, for instance, you might think you’re a forward but really you’re more of an asset as a defender, and then using those abilities to open up the field more.”
Hero spent her first offseason as head coach re-positioning returners for success.
They’re moving on without Rivera, a standout center midfielder who is playing at Prairie View A&M after leading the Lions with 22 goals last season, second-leading scorer Alexandra Cabezas, a forward who supplied 15 goals, center mid Katia Molina and outside back Brissa Salas.
“We have holes to plug, but we have some girls who’ve stepped up to the challenge of filling those shoes,” Hero said.
The top returning players are seniors F/defender Rachel Bloom, D Evelyn Garcia and MF Gabriela Tlacomulco, junior MF Caleigh Dauth and sophomore outside mid Kaitlyn Eshenbaugh.
Bloom was the team’s third-leading goal scorer last season.
She’ll play up top or at left back, depending on the matchup, and she’s capable of scoring from either position.
“She’s an explosive, dynamic player,” Hero said.
“She plays with full intensity 100 percent of the game, she’s fast, and she fit right into our team as soon as we got her.
“Her attitude is always positive, and she’s a uniting factor among the girls.”
Dauth was a defender last season.
She’s looking to step up as a leader in the central midfield in her third varsity season.
“She has great ball control, she makes smart passes and she’s a great communicator on our field,” Hero said.
Garcia is their defensive glue who keeps the back line steady, and Hero is expecting Tlacomulco, who’s a capable scorer and distributor, to help fill the void created by Rivera’s graduation.
“She’s our fancy feet in the middle,” Hero said.
The top newcomer going into the season is freshman F/MF Melanye Reyes.
They’ll likely start the season in a familiar flat back 4-4-2 formation, but Hero already was anticipating giving Aldine Davis – their top competition last year – a more defensive look when they collide.
Davis returns the district’s leading goal scorer in Juana Plata.
The Lions scrimmage Magnolia West on Jan. 9 before opening the three-day Willis Kat Cup tournament.
District 16-6A play begins with Westfield on Jan. 30 at home.
″(Early on) I’ll be looking for cohesiveness, as far as adapting to our new positions, communication among the girls, and seeing if we can bring the competitive spirit, and the control we worked on in the offseason, into real-game situations,” Hero said.
Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com.
Coach: Annie Hero, first season
2017: 15-3-2 overall, 11-2-1 in District 16-6A
2018: District 16-6A member with Dekaney, Westfield, Aldine, Aldine Davis, Nimitz and MacArthur.
Next up: The Lions scrimmage Magnolia West at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at home.
Key players: F/D Rachel Bloom, D Evelyn Garcia, MF Gabriela Tlacomulco, MF Caleigh Dauth, MF Kaitlyn Eshenbaugh