State soccer: Plano West girls have serious fun

Plano West's girls soccer team is two wins from a state championship. Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.com

The Plano West girls soccer team’s final training session before the state tournament moved at a lively pace, focusing primarily on basic touch drills to sharpen key fundamentals.

The transfers between drills Tuesday worked seamlessly as players followed a routine that has helped earned them the No. 3 national rank according to ESPNHS going into the Class 5A state tournament.

But before the players could move on to a free-for-all, scrimmage-like scoring drill known as World Cup with the most serious weekend of their careers upon them, they all had to line up with hands over hearts and sing an ear-splitting, downright silly rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” directed with conductor-like movements from coach Carley Phillips.

“We were playing World Cup and talking about wanting it and who wants it more and so we decided to have a national anthem and an international walkout like in the World Cup,” Phillips said.

No, this Plano West team isn’t one to spend days leading up to big games in solemn meditation and reflective silence. The Lady Wolves screamed the lyrics to the Spice Girls' song “Wannabe” right before hitting the field for the region final, which, frankly, is a testament to the players' natural ability to operate well beyond their years.

Most of the team was a year old when the song was first released.

Last year, the Lady Wolves were led by a talented but inexperienced group of sophomores who saw their season earlier than expected in the bi-district round.

While still considered a young team with its core of juniors, goofy antics and all, mature play inside the touchlines has Plano West on the verge of a 5A state title.

“I feel like we have a different atmosphere around our team and going into [the playoffs] we had a different mindset,” junior goalie Clair Wheatley said. “It feels completely different to me.”

Credit that new vibe to Phillips, in her first year as the Lady Wolves' head coach, and her ability to relate to her players. As a Plano West soccer alumnus -- playing varsity from 2002-05 and going to state in '02 and '04 -- she's gone through all the same experiences her team faces.

“She knows where we’re coming from,” junior Taylor Jackson said. “She’s been through all this and she connects with us like that. She doesn’t have to say much to get us motivated, just her being here and being an example to us.”

A win against semifinal opponent Klein Oak (25-1-1) Thursday at 11 a.m. would put the Lady Wolves (21-3-4) one step closer to ending their season like Phillips did in 2002 – hoisting a state championship trophy.

Two teams make first tournament appearance

Mansfield's boys and Trophy Club Byron Nelson’s girls are making their schools' first trip to Georgetown for the state soccer tournament.

Mansfield (21-5-4) is the only boys squad representing the Metroplex this weekend, facing Mission Sharyland (15-3) in the 5A semifinal Thursday at 4 p.m.

Three years after the school opened, Byron Nelson’s girls are already within two wins a state championship. After storming through the playoffs, outscoring opponents 27-3, the Bobcats (23-2-4) will try their skill against tournament hometown Cedar Park (21-3-3) Friday at 1 p.m. in a 4A semifinal.

Highland Park girls return to state

The Lady Scots return to the state tournament for the eighth time, the first since 2006, in hopes of continuing the tradition of a girls title returning to the Metroplex.

Highland Park (26-1-2) will face Waco Midway (21-4-4) in the 4A semifinal Friday at 11 a.m.

The Lady Scots have allowed just one goal throughout their playoff run.

Find the full state tournament schedule here.