Earlier this season, when Harker Heights was 0-4 and battling a stiff non-district schedule, Kaylee Kellam said she still believed the Lady Knights had what it took to turn it around in time for a playoff run.
Not expecting it per se — but definitely believing.
“I had a great feeling that we were going to make it,” Kellam said.
“We have the talent and we have the hard-working players.”
“And a coach who is determined,” added junior Caitlin Dumond.
“We’re all determined,” Kellam said.
First-year head coach Jared Cruddas has injected the Lady Knight soccer program with new attitude since Day 1 at the helm.
Now, after earning its first playoff berth in 10 years, Heights will try to continue along that path when it takes on District 7-5A champion Midlothian tonight at Tiger Field in Corsicana.
Heights has faced Midlothian before, part of that brutal non-district stretch earlier this season.
Midlothian prevailed in that first meeting by a score of 5-0.
But the Lady Knights, who were still tinkering with lineups and positions at the time, are feeling and playing like a very different team now.
“(We’re) a lot more confident. We’ve figured out positioning. We have confidence on the ball, we take our time,” Kellam said. “It is stressful going back against them, knowing the score last time, but there is more confidence now because of how well we have done and how much we’ve improved.”
Perhaps the area the Lady Knights have improved the most in is defense.
After the slow start, Heights gained momentum in district play and finished with a team-record eight shutouts this season in league play.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Heights’ improvement was its two games against Temple.
After losing the first meeting 4-2, Heights won a defensive battle in the second meeting.
Now, Heights will look to do the same against Midlothian.
“It’s the same kind of game plan that we’re going out there,” Cruddas said. “We’re going to have to play some stiff defense and just try to be resilient.
And now that the team is playing up to the potential Kellam foresaw in non-district play, the Lady Knights are confident that they’ll be better against Midlothian this time.
“We held them off pretty well (last time),” Dumond said. “But I feel like this time we’re going to hold them off even better.”