Before his team had stepped onto the field for a district game, Ryan coach Raiford Malone knew he’d have his hands full in the team’s new Class 5A district.
And then, Ryan’s level of difficulty increased as its number of healthy bodies decreased.
The Lady Raiders lost their last home game of the season Tuesday, 3-0 to Coppell, and honored their two seniors, Cat Valencia and Taylor Gutierrez.
A roster full of youth and a slew of injuries have crippled Ryan (7-12-4, 0-9-1 District 5-5A) on its foray into 5A. The Raiders will close the season at Flower Mound on Friday.
“I knew it was going to be a rough road in this district,” Malone said. “Everybody likes to keep people healthy, but if we could have kept everybody healthy and had everybody through district play, we definitely could have made more of an impact.
“I don’t know if we would have made the playoffs, but I think we would have affected some of these teams and whether they would have gotten into the playoffs or not and given them better games.”
One of Ryan’s biggest setbacks occurred in nondistrict play when junior midfielder Erika Yarborough suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Yarborough and sophomore goalkeeper Regan Dowling were the only returning starters from Ryan’s 2012 team that reached the Class 4A sectional round before losing to Birdville. Malone praised Dowling’s play between the posts this season.
Malone, in his 18th year as Ryan’s head coach, said his team’s performance began to pick up as the team approached district play. But as more players picked up nagging injuries along the way, the sledding became more difficult.
“This district that we’re in, we’re looking at some big schools,” Malone said. “They have big, deep benches with lots of players they can move in and out without really dropping off any kind of level of play. We don’t have that deep a bench. We’re struggling to keep a varsity and JV program going with our kinds of numbers.”
Malone said he’s been proud of his team’s effort throughout the season and its ability to stay in games even without generating many goals.
With all of the growth his young team experienced this season, Malone is hoping this year’s hardships will turn into success down the road.
“It’s been like putting a puzzle together,” Malone said. “We basically had a different starting lineup every single night. Positives are that more girls are getting experience, [and] they’re all younger girls. Hopefully, in future years that’s going to pay off.”
One game left for Denton
The Denton Lady Broncos weren’t immune to the struggles and injuries that plagued their crosstown rivals.
Denton closes out its season Friday at Lake Dallas. Like Ryan, Denton (1-1-12, 0-11 District 11-4A) will be searching for its first district win.
It will be the last game for seniors Kyla Petrie, Julie Flores and Morgan Rushing. The trio and the rest of the Lady Broncos have had to endure major injuries that derailed Denton’s playoff chances.
“We had high hopes early on in the year,” Denton coach Iseed Khoury said. “We thought we would do extremely well, and then we suffered a major injury before the season started. Then we suffered the next one and then the next one.”
It started when sophomore defender Maddie Palasota tore an anterior cruciate ligament before the season started. Three games after that, junior midfielder Lindsay Wilson went down with a knee injury, then Rushing suffered an injury as well.
Along with that, Petrie, who’s arguably the team’s best player, has yet to fully recover from surgery to repair an ACL. Khoury said Petrie’s at 70 percent “at best” and has only recently been playing 30 minutes per half.
Khoury said his team has worked extremely hard and he hopes all the hard work will help the Lady Broncos next season.
But Khoury also shed some doubt on next year. None of his JV players plays club soccer, making the jump up to varsity in a district full of contenders much more difficult.
“These are the players that are going to come up to the varsity level, and they’re going to find that they’re playing against some of the best players in the state of Texas, if not the best,” Khoury said. “Birdville, [Trophy Club] Byron Nelson and Guyer have some of the top talent in the state.
“So that’s what our JV players have to look forward to. And if you’re not used to playing at that high level, it’s kind of a shock. The speed of play is completely different.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org