Spend just 10 minutes with any member of the Waxahachie Lady Indians varsity soccer team and one thing is resoundingly clear – it is team first.
Three underclassmen have earned superlative awards for their performance during the Lady Indians’ playoff run this season.
Natalie Kelly, a sophomore, was named to both the Class 4A-Region II All-Region team and All-State team as a defender while fellow sophomore Emily Saunders earned all-region recognition for her play at forward.
Freshman goalkeeper Sarah Hay earned all-region honors, an honor a former rival feels was more of an understatement.
“I’m not sure how good the Highland Park keeper was, but Hay was definitely better than the other two on the list. Your girls were first class and they deserve it. That first class attitude does reflect very well off their coach,” Longview girls soccer coach Chris Yoder said. Yoder was named the regional coach of the year.
Longview defeated the Lady Indians, 3-2, in overtime in the regional quarterfinals to end Waxahachie’s season with a 19-6-1 overall record.
“The three young ladies all deserve the recognition for their contribution to this year’s regional quarterfinalist team. Each played a large role in our run this past season,” Waxahachie head soccer coach Jason Venable said.
All-region players are voted on by the coaches and coaches cannot vote for their own players. The top two vote getters in each category are awarded the all-state honor.
“I am excited and proud of the nomination,” Kelly said after being named the first all-state soccer player in WHS history. “It was real surprising. I figured all-region, maybe, but definitely not all-state.”
Kelly scored one goal in the area playoffs against North Dallas and picked up two assists against Longview. The defender finished the season with 10 goals and 13 assists and was the player designated to kick in the corner kicks for Waxahachie.
“The all-state defender honors to Natalie were very warranted and her play was one reason for Sarah being so successful,” Venable said. “Natalie had several goals and assist from our sweeper position which is pretty difficult to do. Her skill level and work ethic has made our team better in a lot of ways. Natalie takes all of our corners and set pieces and can score or place it right were it needs to be to allow for us a chance to score almost every time inside of 40 yards. Being a sophomore that receives All State honors is fantastic but she realizes the expectations from her the next two years. She will continue to lead our defense and play a vital role in all our set pieces. She is a special player.”
While Kelly, Saunders and Hay were all excited to earn the recognition from the coaches, they credited their team for the chance to be honored.
“I was real excited because usually they give it to higher classification, but I thought it was really cool that all three of us got it,” Saunders said. “I don’t want to get my hopes up (for next season) because I am just a sophomore and I worked hard to get All-Region, but if you do not go far in the playoffs and work hard as a team then we do not get noticed individually. We were only noticed because our team got us there, we obviously did not get there on our own.”
Led by several seniors, the Lady Indians opened the playoff with a shutout against North Dallas, 4-0, and a sectional win against Woodrow Wilson, 3-1.
Saunders led the Lady Indians in scoring with 33 goals while recording 12 assists. In the postseason she scored five goals including two against Longview.
“Emily receiving her All-Region votes was no surprise to me,” Venable said. “She has been our leading scorer the past two seasons (freshman and sophomore) and she continues to get better and become a stronger, more intelligent player daily. This year Emily really stepped up her game and just really added on to her repertoire by both being a team leader both in scoring and assists. Being All Region with Richardson Pearce High School girls wining state and the Longview team beating us in the playoffs is quite an accomplishment. There were several forwards that were pretty special in this region and Emily deserves to be mentioned with any of them.”
Hay recorded 12 shutouts on the season, her first season of high school varsity soccer.
“I was shocked, very, very shocked to get the award,” Hay said. “I thought there were a lot of other people who could have gotten the award besides me. I was very honored to see it.”
When told of the comments from Longview’s coach, Hay said she was honored to have him say that and was thankful for his high opinion of her.
“Sarah, only being a freshman, was a huge accomplishment in that with the quality of teams in our strong region she would be honored as one of four goalkeepers that were the best is an indication of how her hard work and determination to work hard each and every day,” Venable said. “I believe her work in off season and cross country helped to contribute to this recognition. She was a noticeable presence in our box all year long by coaches and players alike. She will only get better the next few years. It is scary where she could end up if she continues to work as she has all year.”
With the summer break rapidly approaching the girls soccer days are far from over.
A part of their success on the varsity level, all three girls participate in club soccer to keep their body in shape and their skills sharp for the high school season.
“It helps a lot playing year-round, because we always have our foot on the ball,” Saunders said. “We are always doing something. People who don’t do that in the summer come to the beginning of the soccer season tired. It is easy to stay in shape and stuff.”
The club soccer will keep the girls busy most of the summer but they do plan to slide in a few breaks to relax and take a mini-vacation.
As the 2010 soccer season rolls around in January, the awarding winning trio know the pressure will be on to perform up to All-Region and All-State level play.
“Like he (Venable) has told us, your freshman and sophomore year are the years and then your junior and senior year it is so hard to reach the same accomplishments,” Kelly said. “Plus, like Emily said your team has to help you get there, you are not by yourself to get the all-region or all-state. I think we are going to be as good, almost as good, possibly better next season.”
Without a doubt the girls know that they are a part of a team that can accomplish special things next season. As part of the team the girls said they would look to lead by example as a mix of new players hit the field.
Despite the personal achievements, the girls made sure to contribute their success to their team.
“Really, it is because of our team that we got these awards,” Kelly said.
Venable said he feels very fortunate to have these young ladies who have worked hard to get where they are today.
“I feel their desire to get better, work hard, and continue a tradition here at Waxahachie High School will only allow us to grow and become better as a team in the next couple of years,” he said. “All three players agree also that this honor is only due to the team’s success and chemistry this year. They are very proud, but also humble in achieving these awards. We stress team work and chemistry throughout the year and work on it on a daily basis. I feel we will look to this years accomplishments (four rounds in the playoffs, and first ever district championship) and use it to build on and just make our program stronger and better. This team has been fun to coach and I will miss the seniors, but with the nucleus we have returning we hope to only build on what we have started.”
She may be the youngest of the three award winners, but Hay summed up the main reason the Lady Indians are headed for a bright future.
“None of this could have been done with out our team,” Hay said.