The Dallas Morning News

Two area teams win soccer titles

Coach, players thought they could win it all last year before COVID

- By JOSEPH HOYT Staff Writer joseph.hoyt@dallasnews.com Twitter: @Joejhoyt

Riley Baker led Flower Mound to a 2-1 state championsh­ip win over Austin Vandegrift in Class 6A. In Class 4A, Midlothian Heritage beat Corpus Christi Calallen 6-0.

GEORGETOWN — Her teammates were taking photos and celebratin­g a 2-1 state championsh­ip win over Austin Vandegrift, but for a brief moment, Flower Mound junior Sydney Becerra had to get away. She escaped down the sideline of Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field, took a seat against the back wall of the stadium seating, and put her head down.

Becerra did this for two reasons.

One: Her emotions were becoming overwhelmi­ng, and she didn’t want to cry in front of everybody.

Two: She had to process what just happened, and what was just completed.

Under different circumstan­ces, Becerra might not have been playing in Friday’s 6A state championsh­ip game. She had played for the U.S. Soccer Developmen­t Academy her first two years of high school, and she might’ve played a third if the academy didn’t shut down last March. But when that happened, Becerra pivoted to playing for her high school team. So did senior Riley Baker for her first and only season for the Lady Jaguars.

The tandem, “partners in crime,” as Baker said, were essential to Flower Mound’s state championsh­ip win over Vandegrift. Baker, a Kansas State signee, scored twice in the second half on assists by Becerra.

“It is so fitting for her to get both of those assists,” said Baker, who finished her only high school season with 27 goals and nine assists. “She sets me up all the time.”

With the additions of Baker and Becerra, Flower Mound coach Misail Tsapos thought he had two missing pieces to a state championsh­ip picture. He believed that, though, because he knew what his team was returning from the year before.

Flower Mound ended last season as the No. 1 girls 6A team in the area rankings. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, players and coaches on the team believe they could’ve won a state title a year ago.

By the time the first practice had ended, Baker — who was named the state championsh­ip MVP — could see why.

“I knew this team was capable of greatness,” Baker said about her first practice with the team, “and that’s exactly what we just achieved.”

The team establishe­d that potential by beating topranked Prosper 3-1 in the third round of the playoffs. After that, the Jaguars defeated Northwest Eaton, crosstown rival Flower Mound Marcus and Conroe The Woodlands by a combined score of 12-0.

That dominance, however, didn’t carry over to the state title game.

Vandegrift proved to be a tough task for the Lady Jaguars for the majority of Friday’s game. Both defenses had answers for the other team’s attack. In the first half, Flower Mound outshot Vandegrift 4-3, but none of the shots ended in the back of the net.

At halftime, Tsapos said he told his team to remain focused. He also preached the importance of controllin­g the midfield — a group that included Becerra, junior Avery Simmons and junior Skye Leach — and stretching Vandegrift’s defense out wide.

“Let’s see if we can get behind them and create some opportunit­ies,” Tsapos recalled telling his team.

The game plan worked, leading to a goal from Baker in the 55th minute. Two minutes later, Vandegrift answered. But Becerra later found Baker again, who rifled a shot off her right toe past the Vandegrift goalie for what was the gamewinnin­g goal.

 ?? Thao Nguyen/special Contributo­r ?? Flower Mound’s Tatum Beck outjumps Austin Vandegrift’s Hailey Sapinoro for the ball in the Class 6A state championsh­ip game at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field.
Thao Nguyen/special Contributo­r Flower Mound’s Tatum Beck outjumps Austin Vandegrift’s Hailey Sapinoro for the ball in the Class 6A state championsh­ip game at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field.

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