CHS’ Wright, Cross earn 5-5A superlatives
The deepest playoff run in the history of the Centennial girls soccer program was recently rewarded with two superlative honors on the District 5-5A girls soccer team.
The Lady Spartans, who came within a victory earning a berth in the Class 5A UIL state championships, finished the season with a record of 22-2-2. Both of the losses they suffered were to 5-5A champion and state finalist Mansfield Legacy by identical scores of 2-0. The Lady Spartans finished second in district play with a record of 11-1-2.
Brian Boydstun, who lobbied to take over the girls team while also coaching the boys’ squad at Centennial, said he knew the potential there was among the players and wanted to see what he could do with the talent.
“I didn’t know we were going to do what we did,” Boydstun admitted. “Especially with as young as we were but the girls played great.”
The Lady Spartans defense was rock-solid all season, so it was no surprise that sophomore defender Apolonia Wright was honored as the Defensive Player of the Year.
“She is the complete package,” Boydstun said of Wright. “She is just a great soccer player. I could literally put her anywhere because she has such great skills.”
Because of Wright’s speed, Boydstun gave her the freedom to push forward, because he said he knew that with her conditioning and speed she would be able to get back on defense when she was needed.
“It is very hard to beat her,” Boydstun said.
Junior forward Madalynn Cross shared Offensive Newcomer of the Year with Burleson sophomore forward Savanna Riggs. Cross came to the Lady Spartans out of cheerleading and was a bit rusty according to Boydstun. Even with the rust, Boydstun said he could see a lot of talent and skill.
“She didn’t play last year for us,” Boydstun said. “You could tell she had a lot of speed but she was just raw. She just hadn’t played in a year.”
The thing that made Cross so tough to stop was how hard she struck the ball and that her shots were rarely off frame, Boydstun said.
“She might be one of the fastest players we have,” Boydstun said. “When she gets going with the ball there aren’t many defenders that can keep up with her. A lot of our goals this season came through her from the right wing.”
After finishing second in 5-5A, the Lady Spartans opened the playoffs with a 3-0 victory over Fort Worth North Side. Centennial then rallied to win it’s next two games to earn the programs first trip to the regional tournament in Wichita Falls. The Lady Spartans topped Little Elk, 2-1, in double overtime then knocked off Grapevine, 2-1.
At the regional tournament, Centennial downed Lubbock Coronado, 2-1, to advance to the regional finals against Legacy. Inclement weather in Wichita Falls forced the teams to return to the Metroplex and play in Mansfield where the Lady Broncos prevailed 2-0 over the Lady Spartans. The teams played in a driving rainstorm that also included high winds.
“That was the worst weather we played in all year,” Boydstun said.
The Lady Spartans had four players on the 5-5A first-team. In a tribute to Centennial’s defense, three of the players - juniors Cooper Cowan and Ashli Galupi and sophomore Kayla Smith - were defenders. The other first-teamer was junior forward Casie Watson.
“Our defenders understand the game so well and that’s what makes them so good,” Boydstun said. “You can give them a little advice and they adjust to that. Most of the year teams couldn’t get a shot on us and that’s a testament to our defenders.”
Not only was Cowan a top-flight defender but her ability to control the ball was a great asset, Boydstun said.
“Cooper can dribble the ball around anyone and get us out of trouble with her ball-handling skills,” Boydstun said. “She has a lot of confidence.”
Galupi, who plays midfielder on her club team, was a strong physical presence for the Lady Spartans on defense.
“She is great at clearing balls whether it is with her head or her feet,” Boydstun said. “Her leg is so strong and she is tough on free kicks.”
Smith’s speed was a difference maker for Centennial’s defense.
“She has such high potential and part of that is because she is so fast,” Boydstun said. “She can run that same speed all day. She never stops. She can push forward just like Apolonia.”
Smith was also lethal on free kicks and corner kicks.
“She won some games for us thanks to her free kicks,” Boydstun said.
Boydstun said he expects Watson, who played on the left wing, to step forward next season as a senior and be one of the team leaders. Part of that comes from her ability to be vocal on and off the field and her positive attitude with her teammates.
“Every training session she goes as fast and hard as she can no matter what we are doing,” Boydstun said. “She is someone that can drive your team. She has great speed and can finish around the goal. Her ability to cross the ball into the box and find a teammate made her deadly. She could put the ball right on spot.”
The Lady Spartans placed four players on the 5-5A second team in senior midfielder Megan Walker, junior keeper Reese McCain, sophomore midfielder
Brooklyn Holybee and sophomore defender Sarah Tate.
Centennial had three honorable mention players in senior midfielder Madison Pewitt, junior forward Jordan Rosser and sophomore forward Brooke Boyer.