By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
With great success comes even higher expectations. At least that’s the mindset for the Stillwater High School soccer teams.
Fresh off their second playoff appearance in school history, the Stillwater boys will be looking to make even more noise this season despite not having all-stater Angus MacIntyre.
“That was a big loss,” Stillwater coach Seth Condley said. “Every year your seniors that you lose and you try to figure out how you’re going to plug in the holes. ... We’re still growing as a soccer program. We have lots of goals out there. Our seniors and our team has talked about making playoffs again. It’d be the first time we’d make it in back-to-back years. We’re not just looking to make it, but go a game or two deep into the playoffs. That’s our expectations this year and everything we’ve been working toward is the playoffs. We know if we can get to the playoffs anything can happen.”
The Pioneers return seven starters, including seniors Sam Smith, Ian Fladie and Matheus Barbosa. But with Smith and Fladie moving up to help Stillwater’s offense, the biggest question surrounding the Pioneers will be whether or not the defense can hold.
“The past two years, Ian Fladie, Sam Smith and Ean Bonjour have been the backbone of our defense,” Condley said. “I knew I was going to have to move them up closer to the opponent’s goal to give us a chance to score. I was really concerned with our backline and knowing that we were losing Decker (Mosier). Four of the five, including the goalie, are first-year starters but I’ve been surprised at how well they have matured and grown together.”
Instead of Mosier, who transferred to Bishop McGuinness, junior Jackson Murphy will take over the goalkeeping responsibilities this season.
“He has done outstanding for us in the preseason so far,” Condley said. “Jackson did good for a club in the fall and he went to team camp with us in July and was just really, really good. I knew there was going to be some good things with him.”
The Stillwater boys aren’t the only ones looking to make a run at the playoffs this season.
Three times in the last five years the Lady Pioneers have fallen one goal short of making the playoffs — including last season. This time the Stillwater girls hope to get over that hump and earn a playoff spot.
“Three of the last five years we’ve missed playoffs by one goal,” Stillwater coach John Fields said. “Last year was pretty successful in the fact that we finished 4-3 in our district, but we still came up a goal short. Ponca got to go because they had one more goal than we did, so that was a little frustrating. But we feel like last year was a step up for us.
“We spoke about this as a team and said our goal at the very least is to match that 4-3, but our challenge is to take one more step and go 5-2 to guarantee ourselves a playoff spot.”
It won’t be easy for the Lady Pioneers, who open the season against Classen SAS at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Pioneer Stadium. Stillwater will have to replace goalkeeper Megan Short, an honorable mention to the all-state team and a big part of Stillwater’s success last season.
“We miss Megan and we know she’s doing really well playing softball, but we’re very confident in Alyssa Bullock,” Fields said. “She’s done a really nice job for us in the preseason and at the junior varsity level last year. She has good hands, very smart, takes coaching well and we feel like we generally put out a good defense in front of her. ... I’m very confident that she can handle it at this level.”
The Lady Pioneers may be without Short, but Fields says he has been pleasantly through the preseason.
“We had a great preseason and the girls looked very sharp,” Fields said. “Our more experienced players — we like to call them our old-timers, if you will — came in more physically fit as a team than some of our players have come in than the past years.”