By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (April 4, 2016) — Casey Weil may have the hardest coaching job in Texas this week.
Not only does he have to convince a bunch of teenage girls that a team they destroyed twice in the regular season can beat them if they let up, he also has to avoid allowing them to look ahead to a potential next round matchup that many believe will determine the state champion in 4A girls soccer.
Stephenville girls host Brownwood in a Region I-4A quarterfinal at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Lem Brock Field. There will be a large crowd for what longtime SHS coach and interim athletic director Mike Copeland believes is the deepest playoff Stephenville has hosted in any sport. And they will all expect one thing – another Honeybee rout of their rival Lady Lions.
But it’s expecting such that gives Weil reason for concern.
“I said it last week, if you let down or you don’t finish opportunities against a Bridgeport, a Pampa or even a Brownwood, you can get yourself into a bind,” Weil said. “We have to know that teams are going to play us differently this time of year. I expect Brownwood will pack it in defensively and try to counterattack quickly when they have the chance.”
Why not? It almost worked for Pampa, on the scoreboard at least. Pampa packed it in defensively and limited Stephenville to just one goal. The only thing holding back the Lady Harvesters was their own lack of offense – they had no shots and Stephenville keeper Jordyn Howle touched the ball just once in the entire area-round match.
If overlooking Brownwood isn’t a problem, there is still the other issue – peaking around the Lady Lions at Kennedale. The winner of Tuesday night’s battle most likely face reigning state champ and top-ranked Kennedale in the semifinal round of the regional tournament that Kennedale hosts Friday and Saturday.
“We can’t even whisper about Kennedale because Kennedale doesn’t matter if we don’t beat Brownwood,” Weil points out. “We’re playing our biggest rival in the third round of the playoffs and we get them on our home field. If that’s not enough to get us fired up, something’s wrong.”
The difference is simple. For Stephenville, it’s another step to where they feel they belong. For Brownwood, it’s the biggest match they have played.
“Our girls know this is Brownwood’s Super Bowl. They are going to come excited about the opportunity and they are going to get physical,” Weil said. “We have to match that intensity and out-work them on both ends.”
Weil is no less confident in his team after scoring just once Friday than he was after the 7-0 bi-district rout of Bridgeport eight days prior.
“They way you have to look at it as a coach is if you create a bunch of good scoring opportunities and don’t allow many, then you’re probably playing good soccer,” Weil said. “Pampa didn’t have any real scoring opportunities and neither did Bridgeport. On the other end, we have Julie (Morken) and Skylar (Chipman) and Codi (Beyer) hitting the cross bar or post and Savannah (Alford) coming close a few times on direct kicks. We just had tons of chances.”
But chances don’t go on the scoreboard. Only goals do.
“If we finish a couple opportunities, especially if we can do it early, I think it will really loosen things up,” the head coach said.
Weil wouldn’t discuss his plans for Bayleigh Chaviers in the regional quarterfinals. The star striker and Miami (Fla.) signee is nursing a sprain and played just the final 32 minutes against Pampa.
“She’s great, we were just very careful with her, and we will continue to be very careful,” Weil said. “You never want to look past an opponent, but we also don’t want to do anything to irritate her injury.”
There was no doubt the Honeybees kicked it up another gear when Chaviers entered the match Friday.
“When she comes in, teams have to account for her. She has that impact any time she steps on the field,” Weil said. “She forces opponents to adjust and do things differently, and a lot of times that can loosen things up even on possessions where she doesn’t get a touch.”
But like everyone else, for Chaviers to get a touch in the regional tournament, Stephenville must first take care of the quarterfinal matchup.
“I’m glad it’s Brownwood. If it were just any other team we had beaten twice in the regular season I would be concerned. But with the leaders we have on this team and our biggest rival coming here for a playoff match, I think we’ll come out fired up and ready,” Weil said. “Is it extremely hard to beat a good team three times in a season? Yes. But it is what it is, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.”