Last season was almost historical for the Granbury Pirates soccer team as they finished 16-2-1.
They came within one game of becoming the first soccer team in school history to finish the season with a perfect record. Comparisons were even made to the 1999 state champions on which head coach Doug Kissinger played.
Then came a 1-0 shootout loss to rival Cleburne to end the regular season and a shocking 2-1 bidistrict loss to Burleson.
“Every playoff team has a chance to beat you. Last year is a great example of that,” said Kissinger. “Winning tournaments is great, but we want to win playoff games.
“I would much rather get last in a tournament and win playoff games than win tournaments, dominate district and get knocked out in the first round.”
Then he added, “Can you tell I am still bitter about last year?
“That’s the way our sport is. The best team does not always win.”
Kissinger will get his wish about playing in a tougher district. The biennial University Interscholastic League realignment left Granbury, Joshua, Alvarado and Cleburne together, but made a couple of adjustments that brought Stephenville and Kennedale into 15-4A in place of Hillsboro and Venus.
“The district this year is a lot tougher than in the past couple of years,” said Kissinger.
Stephenville advanced to the third round of the playoffs last season, while the Pirates, Joshua, Alvarado and Cleburne all reached bidistrict. Only Kennedale failed to reach the postseason in 2011, but the Wildcats are a definite upgrade in competition.
The Pirates have won four consecutive district championships, but playing in a weak district has plagued them in the postseason. In three of the past four years, Granbury has lost in bidistrict.
Only in Kissinger’s first season as coach, 2011, did they advance, reaching the third round.
The Pirates return four starters and three lettermen from last season, and Kissinger is expecting some big things from several newcomers.
One player who had yet to report as of press time, however, was last year’s district MVP, senior Thomas Schloeman (14 goals, 7 assists). Kissinger said he is recovering from an injury and his status is uncertain.
Starters back include defenders Matthew Rose, a senior, and junior Shaun Gomez. Rose was a second-team all-district pick, while Gomez was the district’s defensive newcomer of the year. They, along with senior goalkeeper Julio Moreno (first-team all-district), were part of a defense that posted 10 shutouts.
Moreno was also the MVP of the prestigious West Texas Shootout in Abilene.
Senior midfielder Aaron Gentry (4 goals, 9 assists, second-team all-district) is the other returning starter, and should provide an offensive punch.
And though they weren’t starters, senior defender/striker Erick Garcia (11 goals, 3 assists) and Christian Carnes (4 goals, 3 assists) are expected to again be a large part of the offense. Garcia was a first-team All-15-4A selection and Carnes was honorable mention.
Among the newcomers Kissinger is excited about are sophomore Jacob Dyson and senior Fernando Sanchez.
“When these two work together, they are scoring machines,” he said.
He’s also counting on sophomore Aleck Blohowiak and junior Cristian Gamez to help on the defense. In addition, juniors Juan Martinez and Marco Ramirez will be part of a midfield rotation that Kissinger says will help distribute and shoot from outside the penalty area.
“Our subvarsity was extremely successful last year under the coach of William Freeman,” said Kissinger. “I have nine of his players from last year moving up to varsity.”
Kissinger, though not surrendering the title, said, “Cleburne is usually the team to beat, but we cannot let our guard down with any team.
“We do not have any gimme games and will have to work harder this year in district. This year we need to make sure we are on a hot streak during the playoffs.”
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