Lady Bulldogs ready for that next step, a playoff win

By Rusty BerrySports EditorIn the early days of the Borger Lady Bulldog Soccer program, finding consistent success on the field was something that the team struggled with, including coming up short in finding a way to get into post-season play.Fortunately, things have changed over the past several years, as the Lady Bulldogs will take part in the 4A playoffs for the fourth year in a row when they take on the Abilene Wylie Lady Bulldogs in the Region I Area Round on Monday afternoon in Wichita Falls.That success over the past couple of years has helped transform the program into one where the players come in everyday ready to work hard to get better with Lady Bulldog Head Coach Damion Simmons commenting, “I think in the past, soccer for Borger has been just something to do, but now the girls take it serious. They come to practice ready to put in the work that is needed to make it to the next level and I also see that they believe in themselves more.”That confidence didn’t come easy this season, as the Lady Bulldogs took some bumps and bruises during the non-district schedule, playing several 5A schools and some better 4A clubs from around West Texas that led to a 3-6-0 record going into district play. Of the challenging schedule, Simmons said, “We did have a very hard pre-season schedule with six 5A teams, one we beat, but I told the girls that to be the best you have to play the best.” Simmons added, “We went into our tournaments with the mentality to get better every time we stepped onto the pitch. Playing these bigger schools prepared us for district.”That preparation paid off in District 5-4A play as the Lady Bulldogs opened district with a 6-0 win over Pampa, setting the tone for a 6-4 district mark with the losses from a Randall team that is considered one of the top 15 in the state and close contests with Canyon, where the Lady Eagles were the team that just seemed to get the breaks in both meetings.Simmons credits the success with a style of play he calls “ONE WAY” all together, all the time. Simmons explained, “When we don’t have the ball, everyone is on defense and when we have the ball everyone is on the attack. In soccer, there is no one person who just plays defense or offense. You have your individual battles on the field but you have to work together as one unit.”While players like Samantha Huckabee, Kaitlyn Vinyard and Hannah Blakely have had their names mentioned in the paper a couple of times the past few months for goals and/or assists, Simmons is quick to credit each player on his team for stepping up in their roles and contributing to the team, saying that a team like this doesn’t come around very often.Simmons said, “There are several girls that deserve a lot of credit for the work they have put in that don’t get the glory. Brooke Scott has been solid for us this year wherever we have needed her. She plays mid center with Blakely and does the dirty work with a knack for winning the ball in the midfield and getting back on defense to slow down the attack. Allyson Burrows is another person that has been big in that she has played every match the same where she has great quality on the ball and helps lead the team.”One way this year’s playoff experience should be somewhat different is the fact that Borger was able to come away with a 3-2 win over Abilene Wylie in tournament action in Abilene earlier this season, as well as watching them in a game with Granbury in the same tournament to give them some idea on what they will be facing.Simmons said, “I know they are district champs and they have had their share of ups and downs in their season. “In the Abilene Tournament we were still getting used to running a 4-5-1 and utilizing the right personnel. I believe that Monday’s match will be a very hard physical match for both of us.”While the team is proud of the accomplishment of reaching the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, there is no question that Simmons and the team are ready to take that next step in coming away with a playoff win.Simmons said, “It seems in the past they have been content with just getting into the playoffs. We have been here four years in a row but it is time for the team to step up and win one where it truly counts. This is a team who needs to step up and win in the playoffs to start the tradition of winning at this level. This team is capable of great things and soccer is all about hard work and luck.”The Lady Bulldogs ended the regular season with a 9-10-0 overall record and the winner of the Borger/Abilene Wylie match will take on the winner of Randall/San Angelo Lake View.