Following hot start, soccer looks to capitalize in district play


Coy Pope

Senior defender Jasen Brus races towards a cleared corner during soccer’s match against Westmoore. After a 4-1 start to the season, the team looks to continue the success in district play.

After a three to two win that snapped soccer’s five-year losing streak against Mustang to begin the year, the squad won the next three out of four matches to finish out non-district play with a record of 4-1. Now, the team looks forward to Friday in a matchup against Deer Creek to open district play. To qualify for the 6A soccer playoffs, teams must place within the top four positions of the eight-team district, so an emphasis is placed on the seven-game set, a schedule that head coach Neil Hilton explains must not be taken lightly.
“Every Friday and Tuesday, there are going to be two very difficult games and I believe there’s only one team in our district without a winning record,” Hilton said. “So every game is going to be a battle. It’s just a case of us trying and giving absolutely everything we’ve got to achieve the ultimate goal of making the playoffs.”
Although entering district play with only one loss, the singular defeat came most recently in the March 22 game against Westmoore. The loss was met with an awakening from the team and a realization of their competition.
“I think Westmoore really humbled us,” junior midfielder Colin Nelson said. “Going into the game, Westmoore had already lost two games. They lost to Stillwater, which we beat four to one, so people went into that thinking it’s easy, but I think Westmore brought people back to reality showing that every game is going to be a battle no matter who it is against.”
Similarly to Nelson, Hilton believes that the loss may help the team be prepared for the future.
“It would’ve been great to be undefeated, but it might’ve been the best thing for us to lose a game to get a taste of it and then try and bounce back because we’re going into a really difficult district,” Hilton said. “So it might have been good to see that level of team that we’re going to see throughout the rest of the season.”
Looking forward to district play, the team has high expectations. Following the great start, players are hopeful that the bonds made off the field can help to carry the team far.
“We know we can make it to the playoffs,” junior defender Jorden Varghese said. “I think through this good start, our team is way closer and has built a way better bond. I feel like our chemistry is way better and our will and our confidence have also grown.”
As Varghese explains, the bonding between the players has helped dramatically, but the bonding can also be tied to the support from the coaching staff.
“I feel like our coaching staff this year, coach Neil, coach Perez, coach Cole, coach Irvin, they’ve all been involved. We’ve had a bunch of get-togethers and a bunch of practices where they’ve all been there and they encourage that bond that each of us can build with each other,” Varghese said.
While supporting the team bonding, the coaching staff is also dealing with several key injuries, but despite the injuries, Hilton knows the squad can still contend.
“It’s not easy. You lose some of your top players and it affects the team and the level of play,“ Hilton said. “So we’re adapting, we’re trying different things and just playing people in a couple of different positions, but there’s a lot of ability in our teams to compete still and we’ll continue to do that.”