The Denison Lady Yellow Jackets are hoping to be a little more consistent when they hit the soccer field this season and avoid the roller coaster ride of the past few years.
After having a winning record in 2019 and then falling a few wins short of the playoffs the next season, Denison moved in the wrong direction in the standings last year with several key starters back.
The Lady Jackets will try to improve on their finishing kick as Denison opens this season at Denton High School at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 3.
“Spirits are good. The culture on the team is really good,” DHS head coach Aaron Bach said. “The competitiveness in practice is what you want it to be. Every day is about getting better and better and better.”
The Lady Jackets went 4-17-1 overall record last season and had a 1-12-1 mark in district play to place eighth in the 10-5A standings. The road to their first playoff berth since 2014 will take fitting in some new pieces and once again navigating a tough district slate.
“When I talked to them individually before the season and talked about expectations, they all have the same answer – don’t have expectations,” Bach said. “This group wants to just go out and play and at the end of the game — win or lose — how did we play? If we play as a group and a winning team, the things we want to have happen will happen. To me they’re playing better soccer because they’re not dealing with expectations.”
Among those lost to graduation who received all-district honors were Jackie Patterson, who was a second-team midfielder for the final three years of her career, Karsen Ives, who was on the second team for the second straight season, and defender Abby Montes as well as senior Maddy Marr, another midfielder.
But that means nearly two-thirds of the lineup is back.
“It’s a good combination,” Bach said. “There’s a nice balance of youth and experience.”
Junior Alyssa Patterson made a smooth transition to the forward spot and received honorable mention all-district honors. She will be joined up top by junior Sydney Szumera, who could also see time on defense, and freshman Landry Lay.
With the holes to fill in the midfield, the Lady Jackets will rely on junior Hattie Gardner, who was honorable mention all-district, to lead the unit.
The newcomers to the group are junior Emma McLemore, who saw minutes on defense last season, and freshman Triniti Roberts.
Senior Brilee Payne once again leads the defense and was a first-team all-district selection after being honorable mention all-district as a sophomore.
She was the lone returning starter on last year’s defense but this year the unit has more experience in senior Jessica McCary and sophomores Mattix Hanson and Kaitlyn Lashley all getting time a year ago. One of the spots up for grabs is between sophomore Cassidy Graham and junior Chandler Turner, who moved from Washington state.
“The defense was something I was worried about but with Cassidy and Mattix and seeing the pieces fit, I like what I’ve seen,” Bach said. “They communicate well in the back.”
Senior Mary Siems went into last season battling for an open keeper spot. She earned the nod, was honorable mention all-district and heads into this year maintaining her hold on the job. Payne is initially serving as the backup.
And with a couple of position battles, Bach liked the length of his roster that includes junior Maddie Errico and sophomore Bella Maxson.
“My bench is deeper than it’s ever been,” he said. “There’s a lot of girls that will get minutes.”
In addition to non-district games against Celina and Farmersville, Denison will host a tournament and play in the Waxahachie and Highway 5 Tournaments before starting District 10-5A play on Jan. 25. The Lady Jackets are again with Sherman, Prosper Rock Hill, McKinney North, Lovejoy, The Colony, Wylie East and Princeton.
Wylie East, Lovejoy, The Colony and McKinney North were the playoff teams last season.