The kids are all right, Ryan girls soccer coach Raiford Malone said, even though they are taking their lumps this season.
“We’re young and we’re trying to build for the future right now,” he said after Tuesday’s 5-0 loss to Flower Mound in a District 5-4A contest. “But this is one of the best districts you’ll see in North Texas, and if you take a second off, you’re going to get pounded.”
The Lady Raiders (7-9-3) are 0-5 in 4-5A after their offense managed just two shots on goal — both from long range — in Tuesday’s match on the Ryan pitch.
After seeing seven of its top players on last year’s playoff squad land Division I soccer scholarships and another go on to college volleyball, Ryan’s team has only a pair of seniors — midfielder Cat Valencia and forward Taylor Gutierrez — on this year’s roster.
“We’ve got a lot of sophomores and juniors who are trying to make things happen,” Malone said. “We’ve been playing people tight all the way, but this clearly wasn’t our best game.
“We came out flat, left people unmarked and that’s what happens. This is the first time we’ve given up goals like that.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Regan Dowling had allowed only seven goals in Ryan’s first four district matches, an average of fewer than two per outing.
Tuesday, she and her Lady Raiders trailed 3-0 at halftime.
“When you’re down 3-0 at halftime, it’s hard to snap back,” Malone said, “especially when they don’t have much varsity experience.”
Flower Mound, which entered the game fourth in a tight 4-5A race, left with a record of 3-2 for the district’s first round-robin and an 11-5-1 overall mark.
Emma Heckendorn, district MVP for the Lady Jaguars a year ago, scored Flower Mound’s first goal on a 15-yard shot in the match’s 18th minute.
The match remained 1-0 until late in the first half, when Flower Mound’s Gabrielle D’Alesandro scored on a rebounded shot by Ariel Leach in the 34th minute, and teammate Victoria Ambriz beat Dowling one-on-one in the 39th minute.
Dowling also guessed wrong when Flower Mound’s Alexia Hix and Leach penetrated the Lady Raiders’ defense for one-on-ones in the second half, scoring in the 59th and 78th minutes.
Ryan’s shots on goal both came in the final five minutes of each half, with Bailee Eaglin and Natalie Cornejo each firing away from about 30 yards and Lady Jaguars keeper Jordan Anderson handling.
Malone pointed out Eaglin and center back Delaney Bunselmeyer for special praise after the game.
“Bailee really gave us some energy up top,” the coach said. “Because of injuries, she had to play both forward and outside back for us. She played an outstanding game.”
Malone said while his girls are long shots to get back to the playoffs, they’re prepared to have a say in which of their district rivals make it in.
“Now that we’re starting the second half of district, we’ve seen everybody and we want to shake things up,” he said.
“We want to try hard to at least be a spoiler.”