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Wylie East perfect start creates excitement

by | Feb 7, 2023 | Sports

The Wylie East girls soccer team is gaining national attention with one of the best starts in the state.

Ranked No. 6 in all of Texas 6A soccer, the Lady Raiders are 12-0 early in the regular season, but they’re dominating opponents in a way never seen before. Their current record is one of the best starts in school history, compared to 2016 when they went 14 matches unbeaten with two draws and 2021, when the Lady Raiders opened the season 17 matches unbeaten with one draw.

Head coach Kody Christensen has seen plenty of success during his time in charge of the Wylie East soccer program but felt early on this year could be special.

“We started thinking this could be a pretty special year early on, but I don’t think anyone quite expected something like this,” Christensen said. “We’re finding ways to put the ball in the back of the net with multiple players and we thought we’d have a pretty special offense.”

The offense has scored 71 goals in 12 games this season, with everyone chipping in for offensive production. There might have been questions about replacing starting striker Ramani Neal heading into the season, but the Lady Raiders have answered in a big way with everyone chipping in for goals.

“We’ve had a lot of great strikers and when you have that you try to facilitate getting them the ball in space,” Christensen said. “We’re now utilizing the spaces in the field that allow us to attack our opponents strategically. When you have players that are confident and can fulfill the gameplan it makes the game free-flowing and easy.”

Wylie East suffered a close 1-0 loss in the playoffs last season to Frisco Wakeland in the first round. From there, the Lady Wolverines went on to win the state championship with not many teams coming as close as Wylie East did to beating them.

Knowing his team was that close, coach Christensen and his staff noticed some differences between his team and Wakeland’s he could adapt. He wanted to build a positionless soccer team in the offseason, where any single player could succeed at any position on the field.

“We wanted to train a little bit differently this season and so far, it’s working,” Christensen said. “We noticed some things against Frisco Wakeland in the playoffs last season and felt like that could’ve been us. We wanted to take what we saw and evolve our team into training every player the same technically and teach them the movement off the ball to help everyone succeed at any position on the field.”

The team is off to a blistering start on offense, averaging 5.9 goals per game, but it can only truly be matched by Wylie East’s defense to start the season, which has held opponents to zero goals in 12 games.

Between a deep, experienced and confident backline of defenders and senior goalkeeper Breanna Wooten, Wylie East has been a fortress this season, allowing very little pressure or goalscoring opportunities. Wooten has 54 shutouts as the goalkeeper for the Lady Raiders, as she’s set to break the school record with her performances this season.

“The ability to trust our goalkeeper is, in my opinion, one of the best in the state, it helps our defense play with confidence,” Christensen said. “There’s a lot of trust back there and that is most important for a good defense to succeed.”

Wylie East continues its season on the road Friday against Lakeview Centennial before hosting Rowlett next Tuesday, Feb. 14. As the team approaches the halfway point in district play, conversations about how far this team can go this season have started to pop up. Coach Christensen and his team are embracing that challenge.

“When you add our depth and talent, the fact that any one player can have an awesome day for us, it’s sort of the recipe for success,” Christensen said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be a state championship year, but I’m not saying it’s not going to be either. This year feels like we’re clicking on all cylinders at the right time of the calendar year.”

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