By Justin Boyd
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS With 10 returning starters back from a team that went 19-6-2 in 2004, won a district championship and advanced to the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs, it seems Oscar Bersoza couldn't have asked for a better situation to be in his first season as a head coach.
"I stepped into a very experienced team," said Bersoza, who takes over the reins of the Harker Heights girls soccer program after former coach Brandon McCallum left last June to take the San Angelo boys varsity head coaching position. "You don't get that very often. Coaches usually leave when the team has lost a big class. I'm pretty fortunate."
And with a talented and experienced team, Bersoza's goals are set unusually high for a first-year head coach.
"We want to make the playoffs obviously and hopefully win the district and get a first-round bye," Bersoza said. "I think if we play well we could go two or three rounds deep in the playoffs."
Originally from Odessa, Bersoza played soccer at Mary Hardin-Baylor and then served as an assistant coach at Temple for three years.
Bersoza's time spent at Temple could pay huge dividends for the Lady Knights, who move from District 25-4A to District 13-5A, a league Temple has been in the past two seasons.
"I'm familiar with the district," Bersoza said. "I hate to say I have a leg up on everybody but at least as far as knowledge and how the teams play, I think I have it over some of the other coaches. They don't know exactly what Harker Heights has so to speak. Not that I'm an expert with A&M Consolidated and Belton but I have trained some of the players at Belton, so I know a little bit about them and who their key players are and I know a little bit about Consolidated. And obviously coming from Temple I know them and how they kind of play."
One thing Bersoza said he has preached to his team is that 5A level soccer is much more difficult than 4A.
"5A soccer is definitely tougher," Bersoza said. "Not that the girls weren't good last year but they walked through their district last year. I tell the girls all the time that when we get to district it's a different ball game. It's a lot more physical and faster."
Bersoza said he sees Consolidated and Belton has the district favorites with his Lady Knights somewhere in the playoff mix.
"I think we should fare well and I think we have the potential to make the playoffs," Bersoza said.
The returning Lady Knights include leading goal-scorer senior forward Trina Blackwell, junior goalkeeper Katherine Shreder, sophomore midfielder Chelsey Rediske, senior midfielder Loni Singh, senior defender Becca Trower, sophomore defender Ali Tracey, senior midfielder Samantha Snow, senior defender Krystel Reilly, sophomore midfielder Danielle Anderson and senior forward Lenae Effinger.
The squad will also be aided by the addition of newcomers Kacie Larson, Jessica Skinner, Pam and Nancy Garcia, Yaiza Reefer, Chelsea Santos and Kylie and Jessi Carter, all of which helped the 2004 junior varsity team post a record of 13-0-2 with a 9-0 mark in district play. The squad scored 80 goals, allowed only four and outscored district opponents 54-0.
Heights was an offensive team in 2004 scoring a team-record 96 goals and while he doesn't expect the team's scoring ability to change, Bersoza wants his team to focus on the defensive end of the field.
"The one thing I want to pride myself on is our defense," Bersoza said. "We've got some people who can score some goals and I don't see how that will change very much but I think we need to focus on our defense collectively as a team."
The Lady Knights have fared well in preseason action having defeated both Killeen and Ellison by 4-0 tallies and having tied Vista Ridge 3-3, and San Angelo 0-0.
"I'm really impressed with the way the team has played," Bersoza said. "As far as skill, I think we've got the skill to do well in district, it's just a matter of tying up some loose ends and it's just a matter of doing soccer stuff and getting these girls prepared for the season. Athletics wise though, these girls are just phenomenal."
The Lady Knights see their first regular season action as they face Robinson at 1 p.m. on Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium in the first round of the Killeen ISD Centex Shootout tournament.
After the Centex Shootout, Heights will compete in two more tourneys, the Buda Hays Rebel Cup Jan. 20-22 and the San Angelo Tournament Jan. 28-29, before opening district play against A&M Consolidated on Feb. 4 at Buckley.
Contact Justin Boyd at email@example.com