Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked as if the Coppell boys soccer team could be out of the playoff picture.
The Cowboys were struggling out of the gates in District 6-6A, a loaded conference that features some of the top-ranked teams in the state. They were 1-4-2 through the first seven games of the 6-6A slate with a pair of one-goal losses mixed in, down near the bottom of the barrel and looking a long way up at hoping to somehow scratch their way into the playoffs for a 23rdconsecutive year.
But everything appears different now. Far different.
Coppell has won five in a row since that challenging beginning to district play, sitting in the second spot in the standings and currently holding playoff positioning.
“We knew we were close,” said James Balcom, Coppell head coach. “It was just keeping motivated and positive, bringing our energy up a little bit.”
During those early losses, Coppell started to notice some changes and saw a bright future ahead. It was breaking in a lot of new players with no varsity experience prior, so they needed to get their feet wet. The communication started to grow and has blossomed into a massive strength for this team now, seeing the fruits of their labor emerge at team dinners and also with excellent communication on the field.
After the 3-2 loss to Irving Nimitz – the last loss on Coppell’s resume – the team changed quickly. It watched a 2-0 lead evaporate. Players knew that they needed to start winning games, and they certainly did shortly after.
Following a halftime meeting with captains the following game against Irving MacArthur, Coppell’s run started. The Cowboys won a 2-1 ballgame in that matchup, followed it up with consecutive 1-0 victories over Hebron and Lewisville and then topped it with perhaps the biggest win of the season Tuesday night.
Coppell came away with a 2-0 victory over Flower Mound Marcus, who is ranked as the No. 4 team in the country by TopDrawerSoccer.com, showing just how far this group has come in the span of a few weeks.
“It’s like when you get a win streak it’s a lot easier to keep a win streak than break out of a losing streak,” said Nathan Hernandez, Coppell senior. “Each game almost gets easier when you have confidence in your teammates to do the things like score. Defense we started getting confidence and our offense had scored, and that gave us motivation to lock down the entire game and not let any opponents score on us.”
And Coppell is succeeding in just about every area of the game.
Offensively, Coppell is paced by seniors Tom Vazhekatt and Sebastian Blaas, who have combined for 15 of Coppell’s 27 goals this year – Vazhekatt has a team-high eight and Blaas is up to seven. But the offensive prowess does not stop there, as six other players have scored and four have at least two.
“Having those two are great, but also having other people to score gives everyone confidence that whoever is on the field, no matter where you play, where you are, that anyone can score at any given moment,” said Malajah Fleeks, Coppell senior. “Just having that on the field is just a good thing and that way you can played soccer relaxed and everything, but you know a goal is going to come from someone. It doesn’t have to be two players.”
Behind that is a back line and goaltender that have turned Coppell into a defensive stalwart entering the final stretch run of the regular season before the postseason begins later this month.
Currently, Coppell has surrendered the second-fewest amount of goals in the district. Opponents have scored 15 goals in district play and 31 for the entire season while pitching five district shutouts and seven all year, including two in the last five games.
In 16 games played, sophomore goalie Arath Valdez has allowed just 20 goals and has five shutouts on his resume.
“Every single game he makes a save that you just know that he’s the right guy to have back there,” Balcom said. “I think that it lets the players in front of him play a little bit easier knowing that they’ve got somebody back there who can do his job and shut things down. They don’t have to worry about, ‘If I make a mistake, is it going to cost us a goal?’ So, having him back there has been great.”
Now Coppell is hoping to continue its winning ways deep into the postseason and hopefully find its way back to the top of the state for the first time since 2016, but it is focused on one game at a time and gaining some more momentum as the district schedule nears a close.
“Just play as our team,” Fleeks said. “No matter now the game is going or anything, just play as our team like how we played against Marcus. If we come to practice every day, work hard, don’t slack or anything, come with that mindset of, ‘We have to earn whatever we have or whatever we’re trying to achieve.’ We just have to go at it and just like worry about that game. We should get a good end to the season.”