Written by Corbett Smith
Regional soccer tournament preview: Fresh faces join boys and girls tourneys, but heavyweights have edge
Some of the names are familiar: heavyweights like Plano and Jesuit among boys programs; Plano West, Flower Mound Marcus and Highland Park among girls. Of the 15 area teams still alive in the boys and girls UIL soccer tournament, they hold a combined 16 state titles.
But others are new on the scene. Thomas Jefferson is playing for a trip to the state tournament for the first time. So are Trophy Club Byron Nelson, Sachse, and Carrollton R.L. Turner, to name a few.
All are shooting for the same thing – a trip to next week’s UIL state soccer championships in Georgetown.
The Region I and II boys and girls tournaments start Friday, with championships on Saturday.
For those fortunate enough to advance, it bodes well for them at the state tournament. In the past five seasons, 15 of the 20 state titles awarded have gone to Dallas/Fort Worth-area teams.
Class 5A Region I
Midland’s Grande Communications Stadium
Plano is shooting for a state-record seventh state title under retiring coach Bob Weir. Furman signee Tony Santibanez is creative presence in midfield, but can also score goals.
Plano’s semifinal opponent, El Paso Bel Air, has made the regional tournament seven of the past 12 years. The playoff path hasn’t been easy for Mansfield, with wins in overtime and a shoot-out in the first two rounds. Mansfield beat Hebron in the regional quarterfinals, 3-2, on a goal by Matthew Buckwalter with 90 seconds left in regulation.
District 8-5A shows its muscle once again, with Plano West and Flower Mound Marcus advancing to Midland. West beat 8-5A champ Flower Mound to get to the semifinals, after losing and drawing to them in district play. Marcus has 20 shutouts this season, and has only allowed 10 goals. In the quarterfinals, Marcus keeper Meg Smith stopped four shots in the shoot-out against Southlake Carroll. Arlington’s success has been largely predicated on its experience; the Lady Colts returned nine starters from last year’s team – including forward Annie Wheeler (New Mexico).
Class 5A Region II
Austin’s Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex
Charles DeLong won his 500 game this season at Jesuit – which continues to have success as one of two private schools competing in the UIL. Matt Tulli has been solid in goal all season. Dalton Eudy missed three months with a broken foot, but scored in Jesuit’s shoot-out win over McKinney Boyd in the quarterfinals. Regional tournament qualifiers The Woodlands and Austin Westlake were the Region II and IV representatives at state when Jesuit won the 5A championship in 2010.
With the 2011 state champ McKinney Boyd and 2010 state champ The Woodlands failing to advance to the regional tournament, Region II is wide open. Sachse – the third-place team out of District 10-5A – beat district runners-up Rowlett, 2-0, for its spot in the semifinals. Sachse lost to The Woodlands in a shoot out in last year’s regional semis. Senior Candice Followwell, the team’s leading goal scorer, was a key member of Sachse’s basketball team, which advanced to the Region II finals.
Class 4A Region I
Wichita Falls’ Memorial Stadium
Since the UIL created the 4A classification in 1999, Crowley has made the playoffs each season. However, it hasn’t advanced to the regional final. In 2004, the last time it made the regional semis, it lost in overtime to El Paso Del Valle. Del Valle and Crowley will play on Friday. Crowley’s Brien Avalos has scored six goals in the playoffs, including a hat trick in the opening round against Joshua and the game-winner in a 1-0 win over Trophy Club Byron Nelson.
With its top two scorers back, Denton Ryan was the odds-on favorite to advance to the state tournament from Region I. But Cami Durko scored twice, with her last goal coming in the 73 minute, as Birdville upset its district rival, 2-1. This is the first season that Trophy Club Byron Nelson, the third-place team in its district behind Ryan and Birdville, has a senior class. Junior Marchelle Davis, who is committed to Texas, leads Byron Nelson in goals and assists.
Class 4A Region II
Carrollton’s Standridge Stadium
Thomas Jefferson is back to the regional tournament for the first time since 2006. Jefrey Saravia leads all scorers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, with 42 goals. Tonio Hernandez leads the team in assists, and free-kick specialist Alex Barusta has five goals in the playoffs. Thomas Jefferson will face Kilgore, last year’s runners-up, in the regional semifinals. This is the first time Carrollton R.L. Turner has made the regional tournament. But Turner has been one of the most consistent programs in the area over the last four years, advancing to at least the third round each season.
Three of the last four seasons, four-time state champs Highland Park lost in the regional quarterfinal round. Highland Park returns to the regional tournament for the first time since 2007 with depth and quality, featuring Kelsey Bass (Oklahoma State), Megan Gittins (Princeton), and junior Katie Martin. Carrollton Creekview has its own illustrious pedigree, with a 5A title in 2004 and a runners-up finish in 5A in 2006. Brittany Beddow (Louisiana Tech) leads the team in assists and is second in goals. Red Oak advances to the semis after a three-year hiatus.