WEB EXCLUSIVE: Better for it: Lions soccer tackles obstacles
The season may have just started, but the McKinney Lions soccer team is battling through various adversities already. The team is stronger for it though, as they refuse to let their obstacles set them back in any way.
"I think we're right on schedule," said Alan Pocock, Lions head coach. "We're dealing with more injuries right now than we have in previous seasons. It's usually after the second tournament when the legs start to feel it. It was a pretty rugged opening-weekend tournament for us."
The Lions are 3-1-1 on the season as they enter the Little Elm Invitational, which runs from Thursday through Saturday.
"It's a great time to test our depth," Pocock said. "In every match we're playing all but a couple players on our roster, so we're getting plenty of chances to experiment. Weathering this kind of storm early on gives you a good idea of where you stand for later on in the season when the grind of a marathon season starts to take its toll."
The Lions are enduring a various degree of injuries ranging in severity from playable nicks and bruises to being in the unplayable position of crutches. Yet even that is short-term as Pocock expects most of his injured players back within the next two weeks.
While some teams may get down when saddled with so many injuries early in the season, Pocock said his team has rebounded nicely.
"I've been impressed by the leadership from our seniors," he said. "I'd say half the roster right now is dealing with a knock of some sort from the last two weeks. We've got a number of starters in the training room the first twenty minutes of practice the last week and a half."
Two of the players who are delivering on their leadership potential are senior midfielders Mikie Swim and Gerson Mendoza.
"I expect a lot out of our senior captains Gerson and Mikie," said Pocock. "And I expect a lot out of our defenders."
McKinney's defenders this season include seniors Sean Townsend and Mathew West and junior Andres Garza.
As for their goalkeeper, the Lions have used senior Rylan Whan and junior Quique Vicens
"I have split time with different players at the position the last couple years," Pocock said. "We've been blessed with goalkeepers the last several years. I do like in this early season having the keepers battle it out to see who comes out on top. It's the time of the year I like to see that."
Pocock is pleased with what he's seen from his squad defensively so far, but wants more production out of his offense.
"Defensively we're doing fine," he said. "Our defensive stats are great, but our offensive stats as far as finishing are not. I wish we were finishing better."
As for what's expected from his team this season, Pocock said the standard has yet to change.
"Our program has established itself to the expectation of getting into the playoffs," he said. "Right now our goal is to do whatever it takes and earn one of those four spots."
The Lions have established themselves as a perennial playoff contender, having made the postseason every season since 2005 as well as in 12 of Pocock's 21 seasons at McKinney. The Lions were back-to-back undefeated district champions before realignment put them into District 10-5A this season.
"There's pressure to make the playoffs, no doubt," Pocock said. "This isn't just any 5A district. It's kind of the group of death in 5A with multiple-state-championship Plano and perennial playoff powers in Allen and Boyd, who was the district champs last year."
While they know the path to postseason won't be easy, Pocock is confident his players understand the task they have before them.
"We stress to them to respect all teams, but fear none," he said. "We stress to never give up; there's always time to score a goal. That kind of mentality is what's important."