Senior Kat Knabe kept looking at the clock last Friday night, waiting for the final buzzer to sound in Ryan’s season finale.
When the buzzer sounded and the Lady Raiders had picked up a 1-0 win against Flower Mound, Knabe dropped to her knees. As long as the Lady Raiders waited for the end of the game, they had waited even longer for the result they earned.
Ryan picked up its first district win since 2012, when it was in Class 4A. While the Lady Raiders were well out of the playoff race, their lone win in District 5-5A was a signal of the progress they made under first-year head coach Brian Beddow.
“It’s the first time they had a chance to play with a lead this year, and they played hard. It was a very physical game,” Beddow said. “There were several yellow cards given out. They definitely played to the last whistle of the season, which is all that we can ask for as coaches. It was a great way to end the season.”
Beddow, who took over for longtime head coach Raiford Malone, inherited a team that failed to score a goal in 5-5A play in 2013. The Lady Raiders (9-12-2, 1-8-1 district) found the back of the net in 2014, but a district victory was far more elusive. Beddow said the team dropped five district games by a 1-0 margin.
Last Friday, on the same night they honored their four seniors, the Lady Raiders quickly found themselves in a position they hadn’t been in all year.
Senior midfielder Erica Yarbrough fired a low, hard shot from the top of the 18-yard penalty box and into the back of the net to give Ryan its first lead in district play. The Lady Raiders never relinquished the advantage.
When the game finally ended, Beddow said his players acted as if they had just won the World Cup. Finally, the two-year drought without a district win was over.
“I was so happy I almost cried,” Yarbrough said. “I was just so happy because we hadn’t won, and this season wasn’t turning out how we hoped it would, but it was great that we could pull out the win to end it [the season].”
Beddow said one of his biggest concerns throughout the season was keeping his team motivated as chances of making the playoffs dwindled. When the Lady Raiders came out flat against Coppell in the first game after spring break, Beddow wondered if the team had mentally checked out.
But in the second half against Coppell and for the rest of the season, Beddow had nothing to worry about. Later in 5-5A play, the Lady Raiders picked up a 3-3 tie against Flower Mound, a game where they trailed by two goals but came back to salvage the draw.
The second time Ryan played the Lady Jaguars, it ended with the team’s lone district win.
Knabe, who has an offer from Cisco College, said this year’s squad was vastly different from last year’s team. She said the team was doing a better job of stringing passes together and maintaining possession on the field.
“It was just a totally different team,” Knabe said. “It was just amazing to watch us go from last year to this year. I can’t wait to see them improve even more next year and in the years to come.”
Almost a year after Beddow took over, he’s no longer trying to figure out where the team is at. He now has a clear direction of where the coaching staff needs to take the program.
“I think they learned a lot,” Beddow said of his players, “and I know we as a coaching staff learned a lot about them and about where we want to go forward from here with the things that we learned this year. That’s definitely a positive.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.