Wylie East is taking on a new season with new challenges, including a step up to the 6A level.
The Lady Raiders have long been a dominant soccer program, including a state championship in 2015. Now, they join Wylie High School at the 6A level, and head coach Kody Christensen believes the team has what it takes to compete at any level in the state.
“Our goals for the season are to be a hard-working team, prove we’re 6A worthy and make the playoffs,” Christensen said. “If we want to make the playoffs and prove ourselves, we will have to work hard. We’ve played 6A teams before and handled ourselves well, now we want to show what we’re about.”
Last season, Wylie East had a tough draw battling some injuries to make the playoffs. In their first-round matchup, they lost 1-0 to Frisco Wakeland, who went on to be the eventual state champions at the 5A level last season. Despite losing in the first round, the team was able to prove it could compete with anyone in the state and with a young roster returning, hope to take the next step forward this season.
“We’ve preached that we wanted to apply what we’ve learned on the practice fields into game action,” Christensen said. “It sounds simple, but the mark of a great team is that they can learn every day and apply that learning to the game. If we can do that, we can control our games and control our fate in the playoffs against anyone.”
With several players returning, Christensen believes that he has the deepest team he’s ever coached at Wylie East High School. Leading the way is junior midfielder Amaya Dawkins, who in two seasons on the varsity team has won two District 10-5A midfielder of the year awards. Heading into her junior year, the goal is for her to be a little more attack-oriented with the loss of striker Ramani Neal to graduation last year.
“She sees the game so well and is really good on the ball,” Christensen said. “It’s going to be a little different for us up top this season, but I think she’s also going to be able to provide a lot of goals from the midfield for us. She makes everyone on the field a threat.”
Alongside Dawkins, Wylie East has senior goalkeeper Breanna Wooten and junior midfielder Bryn Geppert leading the charge. Wooten is a back-to-back district goalkeeper of the year for the Lady Raiders, who allowed just 18 goals in 24 games last season. She’s joined by all-district defender Alyssa Striker and Geppert, the 2022 District 10-5A defensive player of the year, who is moving into the midfield this season to provide some stability after some graduates.
Overall, Christensen likes that a lot of his players can move around the field and still make an impact.
“We’ve had some really good teams in the past,” Christensen said. “This year, we have a lot of depth, and we have some great talents, we’re going to have a lot of girls playing and competing for minutes for us.”
Up top, Ryleigh Wood was a first-team all-district player as a freshman last season, playing on the wing next to Neal for most of the season. She’ll be one of several players the Lady Raiders hope can provide the goal-scoring this season. With several options, however, Christensen isn’t worried about the offense.
“The key is just going to be not trying to play outside of who we are,” Christensen said. “We have a tight-knit group who will find success by being good students of the game.”
Wylie East’s season begins this Friday, Dec. 30 against Plano High School for their first game of the season.