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Top-ranked Lady Raiders amping up focus this winter

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Sports

The 2024 season couldn’t come soon enough for the Wylie East soccer girls. After ripping off 28-straight wins a year ago to open the season, the Lady Raiders lone loss would be their final contest, as they fell in double-overtime to Fort Bend Ridge Point in the State Semifinals.

It was a disappointing end to an incredible season that sparked high expectations for the future. The lofty prospect of winning a title was only further ingrained when the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches Class 6A preseason rankings were released with Wylie East sitting atop the list.

There is no doubt that the Lady Raiders are one of the top teams in the state on the soccer pitch. Coach Kody Christensen had seven girls score in double-figures a year ago, with all six returning this winter.

Amaya Dawkins led the way with 33 goals and 32 assists, while Ragan Hollis wasn’t far behind with 26 goals and 13 helpers and Ryleigh Wood put in 17 goals and 18 assists. The trio is part of a talented pair of back-to-back classes with Dawkins and Hollis being two of Coach Christensen’s eight seniors.

In addition, a stout defense that allowed just nine goals in 29 contests also has plenty of pieces coming back. The combination led to Wylie East having one of the most lopsided scoring differentials in the state at 160-9.

Still, Coach Kody Christensen is not allowing the allure of last year’s success to linger into the upcoming campaign. In fact, he’s pushing the girls have a short memory through the 2024 season as the Lady Raiders look to bring home a title.

“Coming off a year like last year where so many great things happened, we can’t lose focus,” Coach Christensen said. “One of the things we are focused on this year is trying to stay locked in on going 1-0 every game. You don’t get to where we were last year by looking ahead.”

“It’s a step-by-step process to get there, and we have reminded them of the difficult route we had to take,” he added. “From preseason, to offseason, to the (regular-season schedule), you have to take it stage by stage, game-by-game. Our approach is to attack the 1-0 mentality.”

That won’t be easy for a team that came so close to advancing to the title game last April. However, it will be necessary as Coach Christensen knows everyone will have a target painted on the Lady Raiders’ backs.

Fortunately, the talent is all there to handle the kind of pressure that comes with being a top-ranked team. With 16 players coming back, and some bright new faces ready to compete, Wylie East has the skill and depth to make another run.

“I feel comfortable saying we can play with most everybody,” Coach Christensen said. “Suffering that first loss in the State Tournament was difficult for our kids to swallow, but we know that is where we want to get back to. We want that shot. We feel confident in the players we have returning. We have a great group of seniors. Lots of great defending across the board. We can score a lot of goals. We just have to keep that 1-0 mentality.”

The girls opened their season last Friday against McKinney and are set to compete in their first tournament this week in their hometown event. The Lady Raiders will take on Vandegrift, Plano and Denton Braswell from Jan 4-6. Their first action will come on Thursday at 7:10 p.m.

By Austin Smith • [email protected]

For more stories like this, see the January 3, 2024 print, or digital edition of The Wylie News. Subscribe today and support local journalism in your community.

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