The start of the soccer season did not quite go according to plan for the Waxahachie Indians. But things sure are shaping up just in time to begin the always-tough District 10-5A slate.
At this time last season, the Indians were riding high on a seven-match winning streak and a pair of tournament championships — the first two in program history, in fact. That team came equipped with plenty of senior leadership and even more varsity experience.
Turn the page to 2017-18. Waxahachie sits at a respectable 5-2 after a pair of third-place tournament finishes and a win at home against Cedar Hill (5-2).
The Indians are, though, far removed from their stellar defensive ways of last season when the Tribe allowed just 10 goals against all year. Through seven matches this season, Waxahachie has outscored the opposition 18-14.
The Indians fielded four returning starters when they took the field Jan. 5 against MacArthur in the Alamo Heights Invitational. Ten minutes into the match and one of those, senior captain Edgar Nava, exited with a hamstring injury.
Waxahachie entered the tournament with six seniors in total, three of whom started and helped the Indians to the program’s first-ever district championship.
“Losing Edgar right off of the bat, and him being a key senior and two-time district defensive MVP, was tough,” Waxahachie head soccer coach Seth Riley said.
He added, “Last year, we knew what our starting 11 was, and we luckily didn’t have any injury issues. Our expectations were that we should go out there ready to compete and we should be a team to beat. Going into this year, obviously, we knew that was not going to be the case. We knew there was going to be some shuffling and there were going to be some issues like defensive lapses or struggling to finish. Because, again, we are just so just and they maybe aren’t as aggressive or savvy in that part of the field.”
Despite the blow of losing Nava on the backline, the Indians regrouped to defeat MacArthur 3-1. They then bounced back from a 4-2 loss to Arlington Heights to defeat host Alamo Heights 4-3 and finish the tournament in third place.
With a starting 11 that consists of six players who played integral roles on the Indian junior varsity team that finished last year 19-1-1, Riley said, “going into the season, we weren’t really sure what to expect.” He added, “you just don’t really know what it is going to look like until you get out there and play against some of the teams that you know are always at the top in their area.”
The confidence began to build in the Aledo tournament Jan. 12-13 and culminated when the Indians defeated district-rival Midlothian 4-3.
“I think the most astonishing part of where we are at is how well we played against a team like Midlothian, who we know will be one of the top teams,” Riley said. “They did lose some players, as well, but they are going to be one of the top teams in the district. It was good to see how we came out and possessed and were able to score. Some of the goals that we did give up are very fixable.”
Waxahachie begins district play Friday, Jan. 26 at home against Red Oak at 7:30 p.m. The Hawks are currently 3-4 on the season.
“I know these young guys can challenge. If we get our game right and get our defense to where it needs to be, I know we have every opportunity to challenge for a district championship as the team last year,” Riley said. “I think we possess it (the ball) just as good as we did last year. We have attackers who can score from anywhere if they decide to take the shot. After this previous tournament, I think it has really shown that these guys are going to be tough.”