Girls soccer team kicks their way into playoffs, ranking No. 2 in the nation

Cheering+for+their+teammates%2C+the+girls+varsity+soccer+team+celebrates+a+goal.+The+team+is+rated+No.+2+in+the+nation+by+United+Soccer+Coaches.+Prosper+will+play+Coppell+during+their+first+playoff+game+at+Mckinney+Independent+School+District%27s++Stadium+on+Friday%2C+March+26.+

Christi Norris

Cheering for their teammates, the girls varsity soccer team celebrates a goal. The team is rated No. 2 in the nation by United Soccer Coaches. Prosper will play Coppell during their first playoff game at Mckinney Independent School District’s Stadium on Friday, March 26.

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The girls soccer team will compete in their first playoff game today, Friday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. against Coppell in the Mckinney Independent School District Stadium.

As of  Tuesday, March 16, the varsity team ranked No. 2 in the nation for winter high school girls soccer teams by United Soccer Coaches, right behind St. Johns Country Day School from Orange Park, Florida.

“The way stuff ended last year, just kind of so abruptly, out of nowhere, it’s definitely made us not take anything for granted,” assistant girls soccer coach Matt Dickenson said. “Just being able to get back and start practicing at the beginning of the year, we were just so excited to be back together and being able to compete.”

The team ended last season with only one loss – overall 8-1 – before COVID-19 cut the season short.

“This year was just kind of continuing on the trajectory that we already had,” head coach Taylor Baca said. “We introduced some new faces this year. Preseason was just about bringing everyone together and making sure we all had the same goals and expectations and working together to meet those goals.”

The team set goals at the start of the year both as a team and individually to help them visualize where they wanted to be and what they wanted to achieve.

“Everyone’s ultimate goal is to win state, but there’s only one team that gets to do that,” Dickenson said. “We’ve just kind of been trying to check off the goals along the way, and if that ends up being where we’re at then that’s awesome.”

The team’s dedication has led them undefeated this season, with 21 wins going into playoffs.

“We just have some kids here, that will to win is so strong, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes,” Dickenson said. “They don’t necessarily have to be the hero as long as the team is winning. I think that’s something that is maybe a little bit different here than in other places.”

However, the coaches and players feel that what sets them apart is not their quantity of excellent players, but their team mentality and willingness to put the team as a whole above themselves.

“There’s a picture from (March 17),” captain Molly McDougal said. “When Abigail Wilson won the game ball, and there’s a picture of us all celebrating. That just sums up why I play high school soccer. There’s something about working as a team and being successful at it that’s just super cool.”

The team has faced several challenges this season not only due to COVID-19, but also with difficult opponents such as Allen High School.

“When you’re at the top of your district, and you’re undefeated, I think the challenge is always a lot of pressure to perform,” McDougal said. “I think we’ve really risen to the challenge and shown people why we’re undefeated and why we’re at the top.”

Despite these challenges, the team has maintained its national rank for 11 consecutive days.

“It was never a goal to be the No. 2 team in the nation,” Dickenson said. “It’s just kind of cool to be recognized. I guess that’s the one thing about it that we like is that it’s cool to see other people appreciate the success that we’ve had.”

The team’s mentality is to treat every game as though it’s the state championship, and they prepare by studying their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, building their strategy around that.

“We don’t focus too much on rankings or anything like that,” Baca said. “All we are concerned with are the games we are about to play, and the fact that we are at this place is just a testament to the hard work that the girls put in and the progress we’ve made.”

Heading into playoffs, the team said their priority will be to work for each other with thorough preparation.

“I think there’s a confidence we have,” McDougal said. “Obviously, we can’t be cocky, but we’re here for a reason going into playoffs. So I think we have to have confidence, but also we’re just going to go in as a team and work together. I think that’s how we’ll continue to do well.”