On the heels of back-to-back district soccer championships and deep playoffs runs, the Granbury Lady Pirates are ready for even more.
“I think we have a real chance to be great this year,” said coach David Winkleman.
“I have been really impressed with our young players’ work ethic and enthusiasm.”
Strong words from a coach whose team reached the third round of the playoffs last season and went four rounds the year before.
But nine starters and 21 lettermen back from a 14-8-1 squad will provide that sort of confidence. The Lady Pirates were very close to going even deeper last season, falling 1-0 at Burleson in the third round.
Among the returning starters is junior Maggie McKenna (4 goals, 11 assists), who played midfield, defender and striker at various times last season. She was named the district’s Newcomer of the Year.
Junior sweeper Kelci Slaughter (3 goals, 7 assists) was a first-team all-district selection, as was senior midfielder Mallory Bersi (3 goals, 10 assists). Defenders Lily Middleton (junior) and Aubrey Caudle (senior, second team all-district) are also back, with midfielders Hannah Hiler (junior, second team, 3 goals, 1 assist) and Ashley Dyson (senior, 6 goals, 12 assists).
Rounding out the list of returners are senior goalkeeper Kim Bantz (7 shutouts) and junior striker/midfielder Courtney Heathington (7 goals, 4 assists).
Gone is Alex Grossman, who set a single-season record with 28 goals. However, Winkleman is counting on his defense and center midfield, led by Slaughter and Bersi, to continue to be strong.
“We lost a lot of finishers last year, so we will have to really build our attack and/or take advantage of speed and tenacity advantages up top,” he said.
The biennial University Interscholstic League Realignment brought a couple new teams into Granbury’s district (15-4A), Stephenville and Kennedale.
“I think we are the team to beat,” said Winkleman, adding that he expects strong challenges from all of the district foes, notably Stephenville and Joshua.
“We lost the weak teams out of our district and gained two real competitors,” he said.
Of the six teams, only Kennedale did not make the postseason in 2012, and the Ladycats are usually a tough opponent. Stephenville, like Granbury, advanced in the playoffs, reaching the second round.
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