MANSFIELD — Just two weeks prior, the Waxahachie Indian soccer team was celebrating its first district championship in program history on the artificial playing surface inside Vernon Newsom Stadium in Mansfield.
But on Thursday night, there would be no Indian celebration after the 10-5A Champions fell in the UIL 5A Bi-District Championship match to the Cleburne Yellowjackets, 2-0.
According to Waxahachie head coach Seth Riley, the wind was the great equalizer in the match. According to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, wind gusts ranged from 20-28 miles per hour — all of which blew straight through one goal posts and into the other Thursday evening.
“The wind was tough and I think if we played them nine more times we would win all of them,” Riley said. “They got one goal to go in off Kade [Tomlinson’s] foot and the other after we pulled a defender late in the second half but I felt like we were the better team. After the game, I told a few people that I thought we possessed the ball about 70 percent of the time and when I got home and finally looked it was exactly 70 percent. I couldn’t be more proud of this team and especially this senior class. Obviously, this isn’t the way we wanted the season to end but this season and senior class were special and have made quite a bit of history over the last two years.”
Cleburne scored its two goals via a free kick in the first half and a goal off the leg of Tomlinson late in the second half. On the season, Tomlinson, who was an all-region goalkeeper last season, recorded 80 saves. He also posted an impressive 0.55 goals against average, as the senior allowed just 12 goals on the season. Thursday marked the first time for Tomlinson to allow two goals in a match since the first game of the season against Arlington Heights on Jan. 6, with both coming early in the first half of that win.
The Indians began the 2017 season by winning the program's first-ever tournament title, when (16-2-4) Waxahachie swept the Alamo Heights Tournament by defeating Arlington Heights on penalty kicks then MacArthur (1-0) and Alamo Heights (2-0). The Tribe followed that with a second tournament title in a clean sweep of the Aledo tournament that concluded with a second defeat of Arlington Heights on penalty kicks.
The Indians ran off wins in 12 of their first 13 games with the only blemish coming via a nil-nil tie against Red Oak in the second match of district play. In fact, Waxahachie won 30 games over the last two seasons to just six losses and eight draws. According to Riley, the 30-6-8 record is the most successful two-year run in program history.
Waxahachie graduates eight seniors, which includes leading goal scorers Tyson Beechum (9), Gama Chavez (6), Jordy Ortiz (6) and Rodolfo Garduno (5). Rolando Nieto will be the only Indian to return in 2017 with five-or-more goals scored in the season prior, as he accounted for eight goals in 2017 to finish second on the team.
In addition to the potential return of players like Nieto, Ryan Hay, Edgar Nava, Michael McKay and Raymond Kennedy, the Indian junior varsity also finished the season with a record of 19-1-1 — which Riley said points to a chance at sustained success.
“The good thing is that all of those (JV) kids were freshman and sophomores,” Riley said. “When we started the ‘Train to Reign’ program this offseason it was not to just be successful this season. We want to build a successful program year in and year out. I think we have a chance to be a good team in this district for a long time.”
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith