For the Lady Indians, early season growing pains are starting to heal as Waxahachie has compiled five straight wins in district play closing the gap for a potential playoff berth.
“The girls have grown so much as the season has progressed,” coach Jason Venable said. “We knew going into the season we were going to be young and would have some growing pains.”
With Red Oak and Corsicana sitting atop the 10-team district, The Lady Indians (10-5, 7-5) are hoping to make a push for the third playoff spot currently occupied by Forney.
The aspiration of a playoff berth was something Venable thought his team could achieve but it wasn’t looking like a possibility at the start of district play.
“We struggled in early district play versus some older more experienced teams, but we were in every game we played,” he said.
Despite being competitive in those first few games, the Lady Indians lost four winnable games by a single goal to give the team a 2-5 district mark.
“Even after a loss we learn something and the girls have kept a great mind set and attitude,” Venable said.
Being so close so many times, Venable knew it was a matter of when and not if his team would finally be able to break through.
“We knew we were improving and getting better but needed to reevaluate what we wanted to accomplish,” he said. “We needed to be patient and continue to pass well and get accustomed to a new style of play for most players.”
Mixing youth with senior leadership, Venable knew the process would take time.
“I’d say we are about where I thought we might be, but hoped to be a game or two better,” he said.
As of now, Venable believes his team has met the expectations he has placed upon them.
Remaining healthy, keeping a positive attitude, and playing at our level of play we are capable of and not to the competition’s level are the main things Venable believes is team must overcome in the final stretch of district games left.
If the Lady Indians can avoid these traps and continue to play at their current level it could allow them to clinch the playoff berth they narrowly missed out on last year.
“Right now the girls have played very well together,” Venable said. “The creation of opportunities has been impressive, especially with so much youth on the field.”
The youth movement has been led by freshmen forward Emily Saunders, midfielder Caroline Clifton and sweeper Natalie Kelly.
Saunders is currently leading the team in scoring with 13 goals.
“Emily has started to come into her own after a slow start with some injuries in scrimmages,” Venable said about the team’s leading scorer. “She’s has great ball control and a very nice shot.”
Clifton and Kelly are currently tied with team high 8 assists each.
“She is going to be really good before she leaves here,” Venable said about his freshman midfielder. “She has been consistent and plays way above a freshman level.
“The unsung freshman is Natalie Kelly in the back,” Venable added. “She takes all our free kicks and corners.”
While these freshmen are leading the goals and assist charts, the experience of the upperclassman has proven to be a perfect complement to go along side the influx of youth.
Playing along side Saunders, junior forward Emily Gore has recorded 8 goals and 3 assists on the season.
In the midfield, seniors captains Leigha Minton and Sara Williams, as well as, juniors Lauren Weatherford and Jill Obenoskey have help anchor the turnaround by dominating the center of the field.
Also helping out in midfield has been sophomore Alyssa Jones who has emerged as a starter chipping in 7 goals and 6 assists.
With the forwards and midfielders on a roll after a slow start, the defense has been solid throughout the year.
Along with Kelly, defenders Amber Swindle, Anna Barnes and Amber Cook have held their opponents to a 0.87 GAA.
Sophomore goalkeeper Megan Willoughby has collected five shutouts on the season.
“She’s a very solid player,”Venable said. “She is also an excellent field player but has played in the goal without complaint and has done an incredible job.”
With his defense and offense playing in pitch perfect form, Venable knows his team will need to continue its impressive run as the Lady Indians will face Red Oak, Corsicana and Forney in its remaining six games.
E-mail Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org