Risa Da

During the last day of soccer tryouts on Wednesday Dec. 4, junior Avery Miller dribbles down the field looking to pass to an open player. “I want [us] to go to playoffs again,” Miller said. “And I want [us] to try and make first in district [and] also beat Dripping Springs again.” Last year the Knights became the first varsity team to beat Dripping Springs in district play. Photo by Risa Darlington-Horta.

Girls soccer embraces great expectations

Lady Knights believe that bonding, communication will lead to success, wins over Dripping Springs

Post tryout the girls’ soccer class is in full swing. As the team prepares for the upcoming season, big goals loom large in their eyes.

“[Our goals are] to beat Drip twice, to get further in playoffs and to take it all the way to state if we can,” senior Cynthia Maldonado said.

Two wins over Dripping Springs would get McCallum the district title, but this undertaking will require some effort.

“We have a couple of spots that we need to fill from last year, so that’s what I’m keeping my eyes open for heading into the season,” Coach Watson said.

Coach Watson will be faced with the task of replacing many key players, like midfielders and captains Delaney Carter and Gillian Rashid, who graduated last year. She will also be challenged with replacing a center midfielder, senior Karen Esparza, who suffered an ACL injury over the summer. Despite not being able to play, she will remain a part of the team, and it’s her job to find someone who can replace her.

I know that it’s disappointing for her to not be able to play, but if anybody can groom a center midfielder, it’s going to be her.”

— Coach Stephanie Watson discussing injured senior Karen Esparza

“Even though we won’t have her on the field, I still think she’s going to be a really big asset,” Coach Watson said. “She’s going to help me fill that spot, essentially, because she plays that center midfielder position so well, so she’s the best player to help us fill it. I know that it’s disappointing for her to not be able to play, but if anybody can groom a center midfielder, it’s going to be her.”

“I think I have Carly Johnson in mind [for center midfielder],” Esparza said. “She was the freshman last year playing with me, so I think she would do a really good job this year.”

Esparza played five minutes during the Knights’ 1-0 scrimmage victory over Anderson on Dec. 13, but she said while her minutes were limited, it was important for her to play with her teammates during her senior year before her season-ending surgery on Jan. 28.

“Even though I’m not going to be playing this year, I feel like I’m still going to be part of the team,” Esparza said.

Through Esparza’s injury, her teammates have stuck by her.

“I think that they have become a really close-knit family, so I think that’s one strength that we have,” Watson said. “I think that the fact that they really care for each other off the field as well translates to better attitudes and more encouragement.”

You always have to think, today’s a new day,” junior Avery Miller said. “Even if you do bad, the next day it’s always going to get better.”

— junior Avery Miller

The girls are receptive to Watson’s encouragement and truly enjoy playing with each other.

“We do team dinners, and before games, we’ll go and eat together,” sophomore Mia Gomez said. “So I think spending time [together] off the field is really important.”

Through it all, the girls have each other.

“You always have to think, today’s a new day,” junior Avery Miller said. “Even if you do bad, the next day it’s always going to get better.”

One reason to believe Miller’s optimism is accurate for the upcoming season is the return of senior Lily Parker to the Knights roster after two years of playing for the U.S. Development Academy, a commitment that prevented her from playing high school soccer.

Parker, a K-State soccer commit, last played for Mac in 2017 when she earned second team All-District honors. Four of those goals came in one game, a 5-2 blistering of LBJ, at Nelson Field on Feb. 22, 2017, during which she repeatedly got behind LBJ defenders to create scoring chances. Since that sensational breakout freshman season, Parker has also played club soccer with Lonestar SC.

Even thought it’s New Year’s and all, the thought of Parker, who scored 29 goals for Mac in 2017, on the same pitch with Gomez, who scored 32 in 2019, has to make Watson think it’s still Christmas.

The team opens the season today at a preseason tournament in College Station. At 5 p.m. at College Station High School, the Knights take on the Friendswood Mustangs. The Knights also play on 11 a.m. Friday against A&M Consolidated on the Tigers’ home field and at 9 a.m. Saturday against College Station High School on the Cougars’ home field.

The team defeated Anderson 1-0 in a scrimmage on Dec. 13. Sophomore Kyla Murphy scored the only goal of the game on an assist from Miller. After a very close game, the Knight’s defense stayed strong and held on to keep the lead and beat the Trojans for the first time. Goalkeeper Lindsey Plotkin earned the clean sheet for the visiting Lady Knights.

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