Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: UIL to introduce current 3A teams to soccer playoffs, levelling field for teams like Argyle, Wilmer-Hutchins
Argyle’s football team won a state championship in December and its girls basketball team was the 3A runner-up earlier this month. With one of the best 3A boys soccer teams in the state, Argyle could be starting another state run this week.
Except that there is no state soccer title for current 3A schools. That will change next season when the UIL adds a third class to its state soccer tournament, breaking smaller schools such as Argyle out of a bracket with schools nearly triple its size.
“The boys are a little frustrated,” Argyle coach Daniel Lundy said. “They feel like if they could’ve competed in 3A, they might’ve had a chance to earn a little more hardware.”
It’s an uphill climb for the 3A schools who began play in the 4A tournament this week. The Princeton boys beat Carrollton Creekview and the Kennedale girls beat Mansfield Summit, but the other six local 3A teams that played Tuesday were beaten by a combined score of 28-2.
At least they made the playoffs. Argyle missed out despite a 12-0-1 start that included winning two tournaments that were strictly for 3A schools. The season got bumpy for Argyle, which has a UIL enrollment of 698, when it started play in District 11-4A, which includes four schools with more than 2,000 students: Trophy Club Byron Nelson, Denton, Denton Guyer and Birdville.
Those four teams went to the playoffs. Argyle finished fifth.
The UIL hasn’t released the soccer districts yet for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. But the playing field will certainly be more level for current 3A soccer programs such as Wilmer-Hutchins, Madison, Roosevelt and Ferris.
The UIL had held off adding another class in soccer because of the lack of smaller schools with soccer teams. Ten years ago, there were only a couple dozen 3A soccer programs. Now there are now more than 100, and Princeton boys coach Paul Kunkel believes that adding another class will encourage schools to create programs.
“Having a third division will be tremendous,” Kunkel said. “When they’re able to come in and be competitive, it’s going to help grow the sport.”
From 1983 to 1998, all UIL schools, regardless of size, competed for one soccer championship. In 1999, schools in 4A and below began competing for their own title. Next year the UIL will crown state champions in 6A, the new largest classification, as well as in 5A and 4A. In the new class structure for all sports, most current 5A schools will move up to 6A, 4A schools will be in 5A, and 3A schools will be in the new 4A.
The Argyle boys, who in 2011 advanced to the 4A regional semifinals, expect to challenge for a title next year. But the benefits of the change will be felt beyond those small-school teams who missed the playoffs this season.
“I think that not having 3A probably kept a lot of schools from having programs,” Lundy said. “Anything you can do to increase participation and have more motivation for kids, I’m for it.”