As playoffs begin, Lake Belton sits at the top of Class 4A

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 1:59 PM CDT
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) - The high school soccer postseason starts this week, and for the Lake Belton girls’ soccer program, the expectations are as high as ever.

Head Coach Jamie Tibbetts started the soccer program a year ago and still doesn’t have a single senior on the roster, but that hasn’t stopped her team from sitting at the top of the Class 4A rankings.

Coach Tibbetts says, as daunting as it can be to start a program from scratch, it was actually nice to have a clean slate.

Tibbetts explains, “They weren’t set in their ways, so we could lay the foundation from the get-go. I didn’t have to change anything, it was just all starting from scratch.”

The girls shattered any and all expectations in year one, making a run all the way to the state quarterfinals.

Surprisingly, the group didn’t gel as quickly as Coach Tibbetts hoped they would along the way.

Tibbetts remembers, “They were pretty quiet on bus trips. I really don’t know why – they didn’t know why. We tried to talk about it. There was no problem, I think they were just young and didn’t know how to navigate things.”

The girls say after that deep playoff run in 2021 they started to trust each other more - on and off the field - and they were able to come together in the offseason.

Team Captain Macee Bradford says, “We have definitely started bonding more. Last year we were all a little awkward. This year we have grown.”

Fellow Captain Ella Wheeless adds, “I think our connection off the field really does help us on the field. I feel like last year there were some things that were sloppy, and this year we really fixed it.”

It’s a good thing they did come together because despite still being the youngest team in Class 4A, with one of the youngest coaches in the state, people expect a lot from this group.

And Coach Tibbetts is here for it.

“I, personally, like pressure. I think it helps prove people wrong. I think my players can be indifferent about it. Sometimes they really like it, other times not so much.”

The girls decided at the start of the year, the best way to handle the added stress is to take things one game at a time.

Captain Tristen Oliphant tells me, “We decided on just saying, ‘Game-by-game’. So, we are just taking each game as they are, and just do our best.”

Wheeless agrees, saying, “You can’t think about the next games because you have to focus on the game you’re playing. If you are worried about the games ahead of you then you are not going to do well in the game you’re playing.”

That game-by-game strategy helped Lake Belton put together an incredible 24-1 record this season.

Lake Belton starts its postseason run against La Vega at Cougar Stadium in China Spring at 6pm Friday.

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