By Mike Phillips
Special to the Daily Sun
There was something different in their step, in their look and even in the way they walked onto the field.
And it was just a Monday afternoon practice.
“They played so well in practice that both my assistant coaches came up to me and said, 'Can we call and play the game right now,'” Corsicana soccer coach Stan Jones said.
They have to wait.
Jones coaches both the boys and girls soccer teams, and both of them are in the second round of the playoffs this week.
The boys team that can't wait to hit the field plays North Dallas, a soccer powerhouse, in the Class 4A area round of the playoffs at 7:00 p.m. Thursday in Waxahachie, and the CHS girls team plays Dallas Woodrow Wilson at 8:00 p.m. Friday in the area round game.
The boys are making their first trip to the playoffs in a couple of years while the girls, who lost in the third round of the playoffs last season, are making their 20th trip to the playoffs.
Both Tiger teams received a bye in their first round game.
And both are more than ready to play.
“We've had great practices,'' Jones said. “The boys team hasn't been to the playoffs in two or three years and they're excited. They're playing really well. They're very fluid and passing the ball well. There's an air about them. They feel they're a good team and they're playing with confidence.”
They should feel good about themselves. They didn't lose a game in the second round of district play and tied Red Oak for the district title.
The Tigers entered the final week of the season in a three-way tie for first with Red Oak and Ennis and came back to tie Red Oak 1-1 and then had a barrage of goals in the second half to come back and beat Ennis 3-2, scoring three goals in a span of less than three minutes.
If not for being unlucky, they would have beaten Red Oak. They had two near goals in the closing minutes as a penalty kick slipped off to the left with 2:15 left and then a breakaway shot 45 seconds later slammed off the cross bar.
But the Tigers are taking momentum into the North Dallas game.
“They really feel good about themselves,'' Jones said. “But a lot of teams get confident and let up, but they haven't had any done that and are constantly working harder.''
Jones has a long list of reasons why his boys team has had so much success, including forwards Michael Roman (14 goals) and Christian Castro (5 goals) and defenders, Juan Rojas, Ryan Condley, Jesus Berreto and Orlando Zuniga. Corsicana allowed just nine goals in 12 district games, and has gotten better as the team has approached the playoffs.
But Jones said there's another reason he believes in his kids.
“They are just so relentless,'' Jones said. “It doesn't matter what the situation is in the game, they never give up. The great example is the Ennis game when we were down 1-0 and then scored three goals.
“No matter what happens, they just keep playing hard,'' he said. “They never feel like they are out of it. And we always have a chance.''
Jones and his boys team traveled to Dallas and watched North Dallas pummel Dallas Spruce 6-0 in the bi-district game on Tuesday, but no one left that game intimidated.
“That's a real good team,'' Jones said. “I think they are a better skilled team than we are, but if we throw some of our wrinkles at them we have a good chance of beating them. We are a much more physical team (than Spruce). That game wasn't as physical as we play, and that's what we will need to do. We need to be physical and play hard because they are quick and they shoot the ball well from anywhere.''
The Tigers are confident going into the game, and even though they will be considered the underdog, Jones believes his kids can win.
“We played a very tough (pre-district) schedule against some real good teams,'' Jones said. “North Dallas is a very good team, but if we win this game, I think we can go two or three rounds and really make a run in the playoffs.”
Corsicana's girls have a lot of playoff experience, but they will have to beat Woodrow Wilson without two players, who were hit with red cards near the end of the season finale against Ennis.
“We will be without two impact players who are out,'' Jones said. “But we have a lot of seniors on this team, and at Corsicana we always have a little bit of an edge to our team. This is a tough team.''
The girls are just as hungry after a tough 1-0 loss to Ennis that concluded their regular season. They come into the playoffs as a No. 3 seed. Woodrow Wilson dominated its district and is a No. 1 seed, coming off a 5-0 romp over Dallas Pinkston in the bi-district game.
Still, Corsicana's kids want to make a strong run in the playoffs, and feel they have the team that can keep that tradition alive.
The Tigers have been led all year by Elizabeth Castenada, who leads them in scoring, Jenny Garcia, Makenzi Taylor and Alex Bland, who are all seniors. There are eight seniors in the starting lineup, and Jones hopes their experience and talent will carry his team in the playoffs.
“Woodrow Wilson is a real good team. They're a good passing team,'' Jones said. “But we have a real good team. The best thing about our team is that they are a complete team. We're a real bonded team. We've got eight seniors who start and they know each other and play together.''
The Tigers have that sixth sense, that instinctive feel for one another that is crucial to success on a soccer field where all the parts are moving parts and good teams mesh together to create opportunities.
“This team plays together so well,'' Jones said. “They play together better a lot more than other teams I've coached. They're a lot more coachable and they have a lot more rhythm with their passing.''
There's another reason Jones feels so strong about his girls team.
“They are playing much better right now,'' he said. “They are really finding their game.
“It's an exciting time for soccer right now,'' he said. “We have both teams in the playoffs, and we're ready to go out and play.''