Cougars sharpen claws for run
By L. SCOTT HAINLINE
Defending TAPPS Division II state champion Northland Christian has discovered the title doesn't fall far from the tree.
Even though we graduated 11 seniors, and five who were four-year starters, and the fact that every team is different from season to season, everyone still knows we won it all last year," Northland coach Chris Norwood said. That tends to get opponents even more fired up, and it's something all the newcomers have had to play with and through.
There were a lot of big shoes to fill this season, and we only have six seniors, and not quite the depth we had a year ago, so the jury is still out."
The Cougars started 10-6 overall and had a playoff berth in hand with a 9-4 district record last week.
We'll be going as the third-place finisher just like last season," Norwood said."Concordia was first and Awty second last year, and this year, it's Awty first, Concordia second and then us.
It worked out well in 2009 and we'd love the same thing this season."
Northland, Concordia and Awty all advanced to last year's state tournament where the Cougars blanked Concordia 1-0 in the semifinals and San Antonio Christian 4-0 for their first winter soccer state crown (Northland won a fall soccer state title in 1986).
Concordia lost to San Antonio Christian 2-0 in the other semifinal.
It was our first time to beat Concordia, and after we won state, the seniors challenged us to come back and be leaders," junior and this season's leading scorer Will Abt said. They told the returning seniors and some of us who would be juniors that we'd have to step up even more, and that's what we've tried to do."
Another retuning starter, junior Horacio Abaroa, scored two goals in the state championship victory and came back in even better shape, according to Norwood.
The Cougars also rally behind top senior defenders Joe Barnett, Preston Pope and Josh Walther, and sophomore letterman Patrick Casale, who coaches say may be the team's best ball distributor.
Another versatile standout, junior Clay Henson, recently suffered a season-ending broken leg.
That was a big loss for us at outside mid," Norwood said. A lot of speed and toughness were sidelined when he went down."
Northland hopes to begin another substantial postseason journey on Feb. 6 against a to-be-determined opponent from District 3-II.
With our third-place district finish, we'll have to travel," Norwood said. We've taken the first step, and that's getting in, and I just can't say enough about how our district gets everyone ready for the playoffs. Just trying to keep up with Awty and Concordia and some of the others prepares you for tough tests down the road.
Playing in a solid district really helps and we're hoping it pays off once again in a big way."
Local Advertising by PaperG