The Little Elm boys soccer team had the look of a dangerous team, and local coaches took notice of what this group was capable of.
During the District 8-5A meeting over Zoom late last month, Lake Dallas head coach Brandon Martin sung the praises for Little Elm. Martin, whose Falcons squad went to the regional finals in 2019 and has won two straight district titles, saw just how formidable the Lobos were.
Before the voting for coach of the year, Martin told the coaches that Little Elm should get it. Typically, the district champions’ coach gets the nod, but this year was different as Martin and Little Elm coach Aaron Ziehm split the award following their successful seasons on the pitch.
And Martin added in the meeting how formidable Little Elm was whenever it touched the field on any given day.
“Brandon kind of said to all of the other coaches, ‘Hey, before we all vote on this, I want to just put it up there that Little Elm gets it because of the fear that they put in all of us,’” Ziehm said. “Taking the team from last year, we only got fourth to almost winning the district, this year he just felt the development of the team, the system that we were in and how hard the players worked. I was really thrown back. That’s all on Brandon. He’s a great guy. For him to say that, that says a lot about his character.”
As soon as the campaign started, Little Elm was building toward the impressive team it became in March, which appeared primed for a run if the postseason were to be played.
Against 6A opponents in the pre-district gauntlet, the Lobos were certainly holding their own against the larger schools that they will soon face when they move up from the 5A to 6A classification next year. They recorded a 2-2 tie versus Plano West and later beat Prosper in 4-3 fashion — the two schools combined for an enrollment of 8,278.5 in the latest UIL alignment numbers — right before the 8-5A schedule rolled around.
That provided Little Elm with the belief that it could make some noise going forward in a challenging district schedule, and it certainly took advantage of that momentum, notching a 5-1 win over The Colony to break a recent skid to that program and tied teams like Denton Braswell and Lake Dallas over that next week.
“I told the guys that before the (The Colony) game, ‘Go out and you destroy this team, you’re going to be feared,’” Ziehm said. “They came out and proved it. It was from there and just kind of building momentum. Tying Lake Dallas was big for us in that first go around. That was pretty much those first three games for us.”
For nearly a month, Little Elm was atop the standings before a 1-0 loss to a stingy The Colony bunch on Feb. 21 bunch ended its unbeaten district streak, starting the only tough stretch of the season that featured three straight losses – one to Lake Dallas and the other to Braswell, which were the only teams to finish ahead of it in the final standings.
Little Elm wound up with an 11-5-4 overall record and a 5-3-3 mark in district play, good for an official finish of third place and with a chance to reach second place had they been able to play that last game and had they been able to win it.
If the season were to continue, Little Elm liked its chances, especially if it were to get past that bi-district game. Last year, it fell to No. 1 seed Grapevine on penalty kicks in that first round contest and thought it could have come out on top then.
What especially had Ziehm ready was the rate at which Little Elm was scoring, posting three-plus goals six times in 11 district games.
“We really thought if we can get through that first round, and I think we were capable of going at least four, five games deep – something that not a lot of programs in Little Elm do very often,” Ziehm said. “But I felt we had a very legitimate chance to make a deep run just because of the goal scoring attack that we have.”
Ziehm and the Lobos will miss a senior class that got it done both on and off the field. Not only did this senior group secure two straight playoff bids – jumping from fourth to third this year – but it also succeeded in the classroom.
There is a talented crop coming through the program that does have Ziehm confident and excited that Little Elm will keep this string of success going when it climbs up to 6A and joins a 5-6A district with Allen, Braswell, Denton Guyer, McKinney, McKinney Boyd and Prosper.
“I know that we have the seniors that can contend at the next level,” Ziehm said. “It’s just hopefully they don’t harp on what happened this year with the way everything ended. Again, they’ve got to buy in to the system of now we’re 6A. We really got to get going and get after these teams.
“Defensively, it’s going to be tough. I’m losing five senior starters from a defensive standpoint, so that’s an opportunity for these young guys to step up and show me what they can do early in the season.”