On Feb. 11, the host Belton Lady Tigers soccer team defeated Copperas Cove 8-0.
The rematch is Friday at Cove. Belton, 10-1 in District 8-5A, is taking nothing for granted.
“As a team, we’re not thinking about beating them the first time,” said Belton senior Jacey Love who plays center-defender. “If we start thinking about how good we are, we can get big heads and that can disrupt how well we play. We need to show how good we are, not think it. That’s how we’re approaching this game on Friday.”
Belton head coach Wendy Knight mentioned some concerns facing Cove.
“First of all, Cove always gives us good competition,” she said. “Secondly, we’re playing on their field this time — a grass field. We’re used to playing on turf. Also, we must contain their center-midfielder Shelbie Letzer. We have to try and shut her down because she’s very good.”
Although Cove (4-7) is eliminated from postseason competition, Letzer is excited to face Belton.
“This is an opportunity for us to have fun,” said Letzer, a senior. “Of course winning is always important. But for us seniors, we only have three games left. We’re facing a great team. If we can’t get the win, then I want us to at least have fun playing the game.”
The Lady Tigers are having a sensational season. Belton has outscored its opponents 62-2.
Belton hasn’t lost to Cove in over a decade. In fact, the only goal the Lady Tigers have given up to Cove in that time span was scored by Letzer, and that was in 2011.
Belton defeated Temple 9-0 on Tuesday. Aubrey Martinez scored four goals, Ashley Winkler had two and Bailee Boren, Natalie Russ and Love each tallied one.
“Belton is a scoring machine,” said Cove head coach Hagen Streckel. “They go 100 mph all the time. They never back off.”
“Playing quick is the key for us,” Love said. “As one of our defenders, I’m always working to get the ball up to our forwards quickly because they’re each such good scorers. We communicate well, pass well and we each move forward quickly.”
Belton needs the win Friday to maintain the highest postseason seed in the district. In addition, should Belton win its last three regular-season contests, the Lady Tigers would clinch their tenth consecutive district championship (although this year’s title could be shared with Waco Midway).
A Cove win over Belton is highly unlikely. Streckel said he’d be satisfied with a strong performance from his team.
“Our girls have gotten better as this season has gone along,” he said. “And I’d like that to continue. That’s what I’d like to see on Friday night, continued improvement.
“Shelbie has been playing very well for us all season — she controls our midfield. And a bunch of our younger girls are getting stronger as players. We’re a young team and so a game against Belton can be a big help to us. When you play a great team, you can get better.”
Some of the Lady Dawgs who Streckel mentioned as having improved since the season began are freshman sweeper Melinda Balades, freshman defender Bailey French, freshmen midfielders Sienna Shorey and Kaitlyn Soriano, sophomore defender Nala House and junior forward Amanda Arrisola.
“We know Cove gets fired up to face us,” said Knight, who is in her second year as Belton’s head coach. “We’ll be focusing on playing well — right from the start.”