WAXAHACHIE — It's normal for teams to suffer offseason losses because of the graduation attrition, but usually because of injury.
Those usually come through the course of the season, not before it.
When Jason Venable, the head girls soccer coach at Waxahachie High School, opens the 2016-17 season against Granbury High School at noon Dec. 30 in Grandbury, Texas, he will do so without Lexi Workman, Catherine "Cat" Dunbar and Rebecca Rivas.
The Lady Indians, under the guidance of Venable and assistant Edward De La Cruz and led by Ashton Strange and current Evangel University midfielder Megan Gaither, finished the season 11-9-4 and area finalists after a 3-2 Sulphur Springs because of a penalty-kick shootout.
The Indians lost four players during the offseason. Rivas was lost for the for the season after she tore her ACL and middle Lexi Workman will be out between four to eight weeks because of continuing complications with previously broken ribs. Dunbar (Hip) and Abby Patterson (Nerve) are also not expected to make the opening day roster.
"I've never seen this many injuries before the start of the season in my coaching career," Venable said about his team's early tribulations. "We also have a 16-girl team instead of 22 like last year and no freshmen playing on varsity."
Still, he said, Waxahachie sports has a tradition of winning that will continue with a girls soccer team that binds itself to the motto “Tradition Never Graduates.” Returning starters Taylor Camp, Klarisa Thomas, Alex March, Madelynn James, Abigail Martinez, Ariana Acosta, Alyssa Stevens, Savanna Duvall will be the veteran core for the Lady Indians when the season opens.
"This season will be a challenge early due to trying to find the system and players to fill the roles we need them to," Venable said. "The tradition here has the girls determined to keep the continued success and the playoff runs alive. Ten girls received All-District honors in 2016 in a very competitive district that included Mansfield Lake Ridge and Mansfield Legacy High Schools — both were regional semifinalists last season. "This year's realignment also move Midlothian (High School) girls back into the mix, which have an unbroken tradition of success. They are probably a favorite of some — with the realignment — to win the district.
"Just like in other sports, this new realignment has created competition for the four playoff spots. Lake Ridge, Midlothian, Legacy, Red Oak, and Waxahachie are all talented enough to get into the postseason, but that leaves four spots for five teams."
The Lady Indians will have midfielder Ryleigh Horn (concussion) and Hannah Hendricks (ACL) back after suffering season-ending injuries last year.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Martinez is one of the Lady Indians' three 2016 All-State and All-Region players. She is the reigning District 14-5A Offensive MVP and an All-Region Midfielder.
Martinez, who can change a game with skill and deceptive speed, currently sits seventh all-time in WHS career goals (43) and ninth all-time in assists (27). The two-year captain also committed to play soccer at Jacksonville State University in Alabama in the fall.
"She as well as Ariana (Acosta) are key pieces to our team," Venable said. "Ariana’s speed and knowledge of the game makes her a great asset and two-year team captain."
Acosta, a first team All-District midfielder and forward and All-State forward that's earned All-District honors three consecutive years, committed to Texas A&M University-Texarkana with her sister, Mikayla Acosta, another former Lady Indian, 2015 graduate and current Lady Eagle forward.
Camp, a junior first-team All-District and All-State Goalkeeper, held five teams scoreless in district play.
"In just her first year in Waxahachie, Taylor has become the key to success in the back for the Lady Indians," Venable said. "She's only begun to build her history in a program that produced some pretty players like former Lady Indian and South Alabama University goalkeeper Sara Hay. It will be fun watching [Camp] play two more years at WHS."
Venable noted that All-District defenders Thomas (junior) and March (freshman) are keys to the Waxahachie defense as well as defense of the net backfield for the Lady Indians in 2016-17.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Duvall, a sophomore forward, and James and Stevens, sophomore midfielders Madelyn James and Alyssa all gained valuable in-season and postseason playing time and project to be a large part of Venable's offensive and defensive scheme.
"We have high expectations for Kailee Norman, Katlyn
Winford, Kate Glenn, Danielle and Kathleen Kyle, Yossly Cazares, and
Brigette Sierra, too," Venable said. "This is going to be a tough district with Red Oak and Midlothian in our back yard. We'll need to win some crucial moments and key games when district begins to realize our goal of making it back to the 5A playoffs."
Under Venable's guiding hand, Waxahachie has reached the postseason 10 of last 12 years, made five Regional Semifinal and nine Regional Quarterfinal appearances.
HALL OF FAME HEAD COACHING
Venable will join Randy Allen, Shane Bybee, Daniel Dollinger, Don Gregory, Austin Guest, Jamie Leraas, Bill Manning, Larry Mayo, Sam McCutchen, Pamela Metcalfe, Rusty Oglesby, Amy Pettibone Simpson, Alan Pocock, Wes Strahan, Glen Waddell and Frankie Whitlock as one of the 17 Texas Association of Soccer Coaches 2016 Hall of Fame nominations.
In addition to being a TASO member for 15 or more years and nominees must have 300 or more wins, multiple playoff appearances, state championship victories or national recognition or one or more of the above to qualify for primary or secondary selection.