By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Writer
“I don’t think anything would surprise me.”
And why should it if you are MHS boys soccer head coach Alan Pocock. After losing 17 players to graduation, transfer, and soccer academies during the offseason, the Lions have stunned the soccer community and managed to pull off their second consecutive District 17-4A title, this time finishing the district campaign with a zero in the loss column.
But if the Lions are hoping to continue their good fortunes in 2012, they are going to have to knockout the team that ruled 4A boy’s soccer in 2010, the Frisco Wakeland Wolverines, at Clark’s Field in Plano on Friday night.
“They are the 2010 state champs; they have a lot of success flowing through their veins,” said Pocock in an interview this week. “They had a lot of new players brought up to their varsity team this year.”
The Wolverines are the fourth place team out of District 18-4A, considered one of the most competitive districts in the area. Comprised of all Frisco high schools, 18-4A had five of its six teams finish with 12 or more wins overall, while Frisco Heritage, the district champion, finished with two district losses, showing just how strong top to bottom the league really is.
Pocock and the Lions players couldn’t agree more about Wakeland’s overall talent, almost believing that a district championship is not being rewarded in the bi-district round.
“The constant playoff battle between us and Frisco schools in the first round, right out of that gate,” said Pocock when asked what he was most intrigued about the matchup. “It used to be where you actually got rewarded for winning your district with a bye, but to open up and pin us against probably the best or one of the best 4A districts in the state is a challenge.”
“We have got to be prepared to hit the ground running.”
One of the more intruging details about this matchup is that these two squads have already faced one another this season. Back on January 14th at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, the Lions and Wolverines fought tooth and nail all game, but ultimately played to a 0-0 draw.
When asked whether that game will help the boys prepare for the game on Friday, Pocock said that both teams are healthier and better overall than before, while saying that this matchup could arguably be one you would find deeper in the tournament, if not for geographical reasons.
“We played them to a 0-0 draw at the beginning of the season. They had some players out and we had some players out, and I think we are both definitely better teams now. So now it’s a game where anything can happen, and it’s a matchup that could reasonably be for a regional championship, but here it is in the first round.”
The Lions are a very young and rather inexperienced group when it comes to varsity experience. Of the 23 players on the roster of McKinney only 7 are seniors, a recipe that normally spells disaster for many programs. After a offseason of tremendous roster turnover, Pocock and the rest of the Lions coaching staff stressed to the players one word: patience.
“This year we really wanted to the guys stress that we were going to have some growing pains, and we ultimately viewed this [season] as if we were rebuilding and that it was going to take patience,” said Pocock. “Just being patient with each other, being patient with strategy and tactics and style, and just being patient all the way through January has really yielded some tremendous results.”
Despite only 30 percent of the roster being filled with senior players, the production from the group has been key to the success of the Lions this season. McKinney’s top two goal scorers in forward J.T. Hawkins and midfielder Derrick Horvath, who finished the regular season with 18 and 12 goals respectively, are widely considered two of the premier players in District 17-4A, while goalkeeper Chuck Schober finished the season with 12 shutouts in 17 games played. If the Lions are going to make a strong push to make it to Georgetown this season, they are going to need those three to come up big, starting on Friday night down in Plano.
It is pretty clear that this Lions team wants the taste of a state championship to cap off their incredible season in 2012, and they certainly can see their motivation for what they are playing for every day when they enter the stadium.
“Anybody who goes into our stadium and seeing all those state champion banners up there knows that this town can be viewed as a mecca for soccer talent, and I would like to see one of our boys teams get a banner up there,” said Pocock.
“I really can see that happening real soon.”
Game time for MHS-Wakeland at Plano’s Clark Field is 7:30.
Remaining Schedule (all games Friday):
North vs. Frisco Liberty @ McKinney Boyd – 7:15
If the Bulldogs hope to take down Frisco Liberty, North’s Morgan Dizney is going to have to continue his masterful 2012 campaign. Already defeating Liberty 3-2 in the Frisco Invitational in January, both teams will be used to one another’s tactics and strategy, so look for a low scoring affair in this bi-district matchup that will be decided by a late goal off the foot of Dizney.
North vs. Frisco @ Prosper – 6
Belicia Mendiola, who finished with team high 27 goals this season, has undoubtedly led the Lady Bulldogs in 2012. If Frisco doesn’t have a way to contain Mendiola, North should win this game pretty easily, especially if they can get Jackie Bucy, the team leader in assists with 10, going early in the match.
MHS vs. Frisco Liberty @ Ron Poe – 7:30
The District 17-4A champions will certainly use the experience from the 1-1 draw versus Liberty in early January as they prepare for the rematch on Friday night. Natalie Throneberry scored the lone goal for the Lionettes in the first matchup, but McKinney should find greater success if Lizzie Naverette and Lauren Neely, who are one and two on the team in both goals and assists, can get scoring opportunities early and often. McKinney is too talented top to bottom to be defeated in the bi-district round.
Make sure you keep it locked on Town Square Buzz for extensive coverage of the boys and girls UIL soccer state playoffs.