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Playoff journey begins for area’s top-ranked soccer teams

Tonight%2C+the+Coppell+boys+and+girls+soccer+teams+begin+playoffs+at+Highland+Park%2C+each+facing+Garland+Lakeview+Centennial.+The+boys+will+begin+their+title+defense+while+the+girls+will+try+to+avenge+last+year%E2%80%99s+second-round+exit.+Photo+illustration+by+Thomas+Rousseau.
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Playoff journey begins for area’s top-ranked soccer teams

Tonight, the Coppell boys and girls soccer teams begin playoffs at Highland Park, each facing Garland Lakeview Centennial. The boys will begin their title defense while the girls will try to avenge last year’s second-round exit. Photo illustration by Thomas Rousseau.

Tonight, the Coppell boys and girls soccer teams begin playoffs at Highland Park, each facing Garland Lakeview Centennial. The boys will begin their title defense while the girls will try to avenge last year’s second-round exit. Photo illustration by Thomas Rousseau.

Thomas Rousseau

Tonight, the Coppell boys and girls soccer teams begin playoffs at Highland Park, each facing Garland Lakeview Centennial. The boys will begin their title defense while the girls will try to avenge last year’s second-round exit. Photo illustration by Thomas Rousseau.

Thomas Rousseau

Thomas Rousseau

Tonight, the Coppell boys and girls soccer teams begin playoffs at Highland Park, each facing Garland Lakeview Centennial. The boys will begin their title defense while the girls will try to avenge last year’s second-round exit. Photo illustration by Thomas Rousseau.


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For the Coppell boys and girls soccer teams, their seasons started in vastly different places. The boys began at home in the NTX Showcase tournament, while the Cowgirls started this year in Keller in a tournament of their own.

 

Yet for each team, the beginning of the next phase of their season begins at the same place, against the same team. They will both play against Garland Lakeview Centennial in the Class 6A Region II bi-district playoffs tonight. The girls will play at 6 p.m., and the boys at follow at 8 p.m..

 

Here’s a brief look at the paths facing each team.

 

Cowgirls

 

Thus far, it has been nothing but dominance for the girls side. Their goal differential of plus-70 is amongst the best in the area. In the bi-district round, they will be playing against a Lakeview Centennial team that was bumped down to the fourth spot in District 10-6A on the final day of the season. It is a high scoring team, one that will test a Coppell defense that has still only allowed one goal on the season.

 

The different style of play that can come with playoffs is one that can challenge teams as talented as Coppell. If a team gets one early goal, it will often load its own box and play defensive to the extreme. However, this is nothing new for the Cowgirls, and it is nothing they cannot overcome.

 

“We definitely know we have the talent and the chemistry to win, because we’ve been winning in district,” senior defender Sarah Houchin said. “But [playoffs are] different and it does get harder, so we just have to stay focused and not let it get to our head.”

 

This year will be a revenge tour for the Cowgirls after last year’s second round exit to the hands of Allen. After retooling this offseason and breezing through most regular-season matches, it is time to show they again belong in the conversation for state championship contenders.

 

“You don’t want to be the team that ‘oh, man, they were great, and then they choked,’” Dunlevy said. “[We can’t] take one game for granted. That’s what we’ve been talking about, just making sure that one game is the only game that matters at that time.”

 

With a win in the bi-district round, the Cowgirls will play either District 12-6A runner-up The Woodlands College Park or District 11-6A third place finisher Longview. In the regional quarterfinals. Coppell could face state No. 9 Sachse, who finished first in District 10-6A.

 

“Finishing is a huge thing [for us],” Houchin said. “We’ve kind of nailed down all the tactics we have and our gameplan, so definitely staying focused and not getting distracted or underestimating a team [is important]. We just need to execute our gameplan, not conform to the other team.”

 

This postseason will be about cleaning up a few minor inconsistencies. If they can do so, the Cowgirls will be an extremely difficult out as they move deeper into the playoffs.

 

Cowboys

 

The road ahead for the boys soccer team is not an easy one. After a regular season that saw only two losses and two ties, the team finds itself in second place in District 9-6A with Jesuit finishing in first. Despite the 17 wins on the season, the Cowboys lost and tied to the Rangers in the team’s’ two matchups, handing Coppell a bi-district matchup with District 10-6A third place finisher Lakeview Centennial.

 

In the final match of the district season, the Cowboys stumbled slightly in a 4-2 win over Richardson, playing sloppily defensively and, as a whole, not having enough energy in the attack.

 

“We need to try to transform our mentality,” Coppell coach Chad Rakestraw said. “That’s going to be really tough, but I’m hoping for a transformation.”

 

However, after the end of District 9-6A play, the team finished the regular season on a high note. Traveling to Tennessee to play in the Smoky Mountain Cup tournament, the Cowboys tied McCallie (Tenn.) 2-2, then defeated Daphne (Ala.) 7-0 and Hardin Valley Academy (Tenn.) 10-1 to win the tournament.

 

“It was great,” junior forward Wyatt Priest said. He finished the week with three goals and three assists. “In district, we had a few tough games, but the teams in Tennessee definitely prepared us well. It gave us a realistic comparison of what we’re going to face in [playoff] games.”

 

If the Cowboys defeat Lakeview Centennial in the first round, they will likely play The Woodlands, Top Drawer Soccer’s No. 9 state ranked team. While the matchup with the Highlanders will be a good one, Coppell will be able to lean on plenty of valuable experience playing top-ranked teams in the playoffs from last year.

 

“It helps us understand the tone we need to set,” Priest said. “We haven’t really set it all year, but it’s getting better and we saw that in Tennessee. That’s our biggest thing, is setting the tone early.”
Setting an early precedent is a key factor that allowed last year’s team to take its talent to the next level. With tougher matchups early on than they have seen in recent years, crucial, momentum-shifting aspects of matches will be vital if the Cowboys hope to keep their title defense hopes alive.

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