Harker Heights senior Kaylee Kellam glances across the athletic office at teammate Caitlin Dumond.
Kellam simply can’t describe the feeling of playing varsity soccer for four years and reaching the postseason for the
first time this season.
“It’s too good for words,” Dumond says, finally breaking the silence.
“There aren’t words to describe it,” Kellam adds. “We haven’t made it to playoffs in 10 years.”
Heights returns to the postseason tonight when it takes on District 7-5A champion Midlothian at 8 p.m. at Tiger Stadium in Corsicana.
And while the Lady Knights have faced Midlothian before this season, losing 5-0 in non-district play, they are eager to face them again in a true playoff atmosphere.
“It is stressful going back against them, knowing the score last time,” Kellam said. “But there is more confidence now because of how well we have done and how much we’ve improved.”
One sign of how far the Lady Knights have come is that they’re approaching the game like any game.
“We’ve been working on ourselves since the start of the season,” Heights head coach Jared Cruddas said. “And that’s our main focus -- continue to get better as a program.”
Cruddas began that process early in the season by having the Lady Knights take on playoff teams in non-district play.
And not just any playoff teams.
The Lady Knights faced district champions and district runner-ups all while tinkering with their own roster in advance of the District 8-5A season. Kellam said Heights understood how far it had come after playing Temple in league play.
“I think it was after the Temple game — the first one. The one that we lost (4-2),” Kellam said. “We realized how good we’d gotten and that we should’ve won that game. And that’s really what led us to picking up the season and actually winning.”
Heights proved its point in its second meeting with Temple, defeating the Tem-Cats 1-0.
Cruddas admitted even he didn’t expect this quick of a turnaround for the program. But he credited the players for making it happen.
“Success here isn’t based off of wins and losses, it’s based off of how you feel after your performance,” Cruddas said. “If you were to ask every single varsity player, they’d probably be very proud of their performance this year.”
The players, of course, also credit Cruddas, who has spearheaded the change in his first year as head coach.
“If he sets a standard, we’re going to get to it because we don’t want to know what happens if we don’t,” Dumond said with a laugh.
And as happy as Heights is to be in the playoffs for the first time in any of the players’ careers, they aren’t satisfied with just showing up in Corsicana.
The girls want to keep playing and continue what has already been a special season for Lady Knights soccer.
“We talked about setting a standard here and what kind of standard did they want to set,” Cruddas said. “They said, ‘we want to make playoffs.’ Well, we’re here. So, you’ve set the standard, are you done? They said, ‘well, no, we’re not done.’”
“We want to go out with a bang,” Kellam added.
“It is senior year. It could possibly be our last game. We just want to leave it all out on the field and have them looking forward to next year.”