By Mike Bruu, TSB Staff
The record looks similar, even if the sidelines don’t.
McKinney Boyd’s girls soccer team sits at 8-0-2 with one game remaining in non-district play. It was ranked No. 1 in the country in December after the ESPNHS Fab 50 was released. It has seen tremendous success so far this eason, despite having to replentish plenty of Division I-caliber talent each year — and this time having to change coaches, as well.
Gone is Jimmie Lankford, the head coach that led Boyd to state titles 2008, 2011 after starting the program from scratch when the school opened in 2006. Lankford left after last schol year to move closer to family in Colorado, where he works in athletic administration and coaches a boys team.
In his stead is a familiar face. Lankford’s top assistant coach, Michele Estes, took the reigns this season.
Estes, who had been on Langford’s staff since 2007, has provided this year’s varsity players and especially the senior class with a smooth and simple transition. She credits Langford’s trust in her ability as an assistant to provide insight on the day-to-day management of the team as a huge reason the girl’s haven’t missed a step.
“I did a lot of scouting and the game plan (under Lankford),” Estes said. “I did a lot with the decision-making, with Coach Lankford letting me be a big part of that. That’s why I think the transition to head coach was so easy for the girls and myself. I was just myself and they embraced me and allowed me to be a part of it and learn, so he (Lankford) is definitely a good teacher.”
Senior Hannah Fifer downplayed the effect of a new voice in charge, saying, “It’s just going out and playing soccer. She’s been here all four years, but now she’s just head honcho.”
The coaching change isn’t the only difference. Unlike years past, this group doesn’t win games playing a finesse style of soccer, but rather has developed a “bring-your-hard-hat-to-work” mentality on the field.
“We definitely have a different look this year, a more blue-collar workman approach,” said Estes.
The physical style of play has shown to be incredibly successful throughout their tournament games to begin the year. While those games are generally just a way to fine tune your play for the grind of district play, the Lady Broncos actually have played some of the most elite teams in the state in those games, such as Midlothian and Kingwood, talent they won’t see again until come playoff time.
“Our early tournament games we actually play some of the best competition we will get until playoffs, so it’s a great benchmark because we are going to play that level at the end of the season,” said Fifer. “So it’s really how it starts and ends, and in the middle just work on the little things.”
While being regarded as number one is an honor in itself, those expectations are nothing new for a senior class who has felt those expectations all four years in the Boyd program. Estes noted that “this senior class has been ranked number one every year since they have been here so they are pretty used to that pressure.” She credits the veteran leadership for keeping the underclassmen grounded and “helping the younger kids embrace that.”
Senior Lindsey Jones summed up the general consensus of the team regarding the pressure: “We don’t let it get to our heads.”
While the talent level on the Lady Broncos is off-the-charts, everyone in the program credits one particular reason why this 2012 Boyd team can be the very best group in school history: their sense of togetherness. No matter where you go at a Boyd game you can’t go far before you see a T-shirt or a sign with the words “We are one” printed in bold letters. Those aren’t just three words to the girls on the field; it is a way for them to stay grounded amongst all the hype around them, to stay focused on the goal at hand, and to play for one another.
One of the Boyd seniors yells “We are …” and the other members yell ” … One!” during huddles on the field. The goal was to make sure the varsity players know that their success comes from the program’s entire success, starting with the JV and JV2 plaers that are pushing for spots on the big team, too.
Lindsey Jones, a strong leader in the Lady Bronco locker room, made it clear how the dynamic of the team was set up.
“There are no individuals on the team,” Jones said. “Together we are united, so we play for one another and not just ourselves.”
High school sports are supposed to teach young student-athletes the meaning of fair competition, hard work, and what it is like to be a part of a team. For the girls of the McKinney Boyd soccer team, these goals have become the very fabric of a program that has seen two state championships roll into town in the school’s first five years of existence.
Let’s just say you better be able to put the team first if you want a spot in the Lady Broncos program.