|Lady Cats soccer looking for district championship|
|Joseph Elerson | News-Telegram Sports Writer|
Jan. 10, 2006 - After a second place finish in district last year, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats soccer team has their sights set on a district championship this season.
"We are going to have to play better than we did last year," said SSHS coach J.J. Williams after the squad went 5-3-0-2 during district. "We lost two of those games by one point to Paris and they were the district champions.
"The schedule gives us some competition and I don't think this is going to be a cake-walk for us. We have three tournaments on back-to-back-to-back weekends. Right now, I am looking at going undefeated this season."
The Lady Cats finished the 2005 season with a 10-17 overall record and 5-3-0-2 with 17 points in the district race behind Paris, who finished at 8-1-0-1 in district with 25 points.
SSHS lost in the bi-district round of the playoffs to Mesquite Poteet 2-0 at Gerald Prim Stadium last year.
"Our main goal this season is to be the district champions and to win a playoff game," Williams said.
With the return of the District 13-4A Most Valuable Player in junior Gayle Grand-Lienard, who scored eight goals and four assists in 10 district games during her sophomore year, and the experience of junior goalkeeper Kai'la Petty, senior Andrea Cordova and senior Morgan Baima, Williams said the players are ready.
"Gayle has changed positions from right forward to center forward/ center midfielder and we want her to control the ball and help her with scoring, since that is our scoring position," the coach said.
"Other returning starters are my left midfielder/left forward in Morgan (Baima), and she is the captain this year, and Andrea (Cordova) will be playing right midfield. Those two work so well together. I hate to have to split them up, but I think it is going to be better for the new players."
Petty has two shutouts in their scrimmages this year, while back-up goalie Chelsea English is also a player Williams mentions as a top newcomer.
Williams said with the loss of First-team All-District forward Ashley Petty, Grand-Lienard should make the transition to her new position easily before the start of tournament play Friday in Ennis.
"Ashley last year was in that position and she was the district's leading scorer, and I have a lot of faith in Gayle that she can get it done," he said. "She is a little bit quicker than Ashley was, and we are going to have to see if she has a nose for the goal."
Williams said freshman Bonnie Grafton, the sister of First-Team All District midfielder Robin Grafton from last year's team, will be one of his top newcomers for the year. She is sidelined with injuries right now and Williams hopes she will be ready for the Ennis tournament.
The Lady Cats open up the season Friday with three games in the Ennis Lions Kickoff Classic starting with Borger High School at 11 a.m. at the Ennis Soccer Association Field, and then play Highland Park junior varsity at 1 p.m. and Waxahachie at 4 p.m. at Lions Memorial Stadium.
"I feel that we are ready and I want to challenge these girls and see how ready they are," Williams said. "The pre-season really doesn't mean as much as district does so it doesn't hurt if you have a few losses there. We should be just fine starting tournament play and preparing for the district season."