It only takes a quick glance in Ryan girls soccer coach Brian Beddow’s office to see what has been accomplished over the years.
Above the desks of the coaches is a row of trophies won by the Lady Raiders. This season will be Beddow’s first opportunity to add to the school’s legacy.
After taking over for Raiford Malone, the school’s only previous head coach, Beddow will try to lead the Lady Raiders to a successful season after a rough year in 2013.
Beddow left a startup program at Fort Worth Chisholm Trail and took over a Ryan team that is looking to put last season’s struggles behind it.
“Over the last year, I’m going from one extreme to another,” Beddow said. “I was there where the expectations weren’t really high there because it was a new school. Now we come into a program that has had tons of success here.”
Malone and longtime Denton head coach Iseed Khoury left positions they held for many years.
In Malone’s final season, Ryan faced the challenge of having just two returning starters from a 2012 team that lost in the Class 4A sectional final, and the team was moving up to Class 5A.
The Lady Raiders started 2013 on a sour note when Erica Yarbrough suffered a season-ending knee injury in January. The midfielder has fully recovered for this season and said it was hard to be on the bench as Ryan struggled through the season.
“It was very frustrating,” Yarbrough said. “It was just so hard to not be able to go in there and help my teammates, and I just sat and watched and couldn’t do anything about it at all. It was a really frustrating season last year.”
Ryan finished with a 7-13-4 overall record and went winless in district play, and the team has strived to ensure what happened last season doesn’t happen again.
“We have worked a lot harder this year,” junior goalkeeper Regan Dowling said. “We’ve been in the weight room more. We’ve worked on our strength more. We’ve definitely worked on our system play more, and I can already see a difference.”
Yarbrough, Dowling and senior forward Carissa Sanders will play a huge role in helping Ryan make a run at the postseason. Sanders currently is playing basketball, but she should be back around the time the soccer team starts District 5-5A play, Beddow said.
Beddow will stick with a 4-4-2 formation, but he has changed the team’s offensive attack method. Beddow abandoned the approach of booting the ball down the field and a direct approach for a more systematic and possession-oriented team.
“I do things a little bit differently,” Beddow said. “My style of coaching is a little bit different. My style of play is a little bit different than what they have done in the past. I can’t say it’s better; it’s just different. Sometimes I think having a different voice, a different person can make a difference.”
The team won’t be eased into its schedule, which begins today at Frisco’s Dr Pink tournament. Beddow said the team will have a challenging nondistrict schedule that he hopes will pay dividends when district play rolls around in February.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Beddow said. “That’s what I came here for. That’s the expectation I set with the girls. Honestly, anything less than making the playoffs is a disappointment.”
Ryan boys look to build off last season
Before Ryan’s boys started District 5-5A play last season, the Raiders had a pretty good record and things looked promising.
But the Raiders quickly found themselves against some of the state’s best competition and didn’t win another game the rest of the season. Ryan coach Robert Lamon is returning 18 players from last year’s squad that will also start the season today in the Justin Northwest tournament.
Lamon and the Raiders will look to build upon last year’s experiences and use the nondistrict schedule to prepare for 5-5A play.
“Our district is a challenge, to say the least,” Lamon said. “But I think they’re excited. They didn’t know what they were getting into last year. We [the coaches] did. I thought we did a good job of building them up last year. But now they’re more experienced and they know what these teams are like.”
Some of the key players returning from last season are senior defender Jacob Malone, senior midfielder Roman Pena and junior forward Fabian Zuniga. The trio is just a few of the core group of players that returns for the Raiders.
Lamon said the team wants to be more productive offensively and remedy a problem that plagued the Raiders during district play.
“Our objective is to score more goals in district because ... we play some of the best high school soccer teams in the country,” Lamon said. “To beat them, you’ve got to score goals, and that’s not an easy task.”
Lamon used many lineups last season, and this year’s roster features 18 seniors. The coach said it’s enjoyable to have the core group from last year returning so the team can be taught different things like playing directly and keeping possession.
“Just having them for so long together allows you to teach them and coach them different systems and styles of play,” Lamon said. “That’s when I have the most fun with this group.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.