The Odessa High and Permian boys soccer teams both come into the 2017 season with chips on their shoulders.
For the Bronchos, a bitter taste from last year’s playoff exit drives them forward to make sure a similar fate doesn’t occur this season. And for the Panthers, a less-than-thrilling district campaign last year eliminated them from playoff contention with two games left.
“I think we are just building on what we did the past two years,” said Odessa High head coach Eliseo Ortiz. “I think there’s a group of players from JV or that have had very little playing time on varsity that have developed very well.
That March 2016 bi-district playoff exit against Arlington Sam Houston still sticks with many of the Bronchos.
“It still makes me mad a little bit that we lost, but I know that means we have to keep getting better until that time comes and that challenge comes again,” said Bronchos’ senior Olaff Hernandez. “We have to face it better and be prepared more.”
“Expectations are high since we made it to the playoffs last year, but we got kicked out first round and our goal is to go past the first round.”
Odessa High didn’t lose a gigantic senior class but lost some players that gave the team a surge when asked a season ago.
On the list of players graduated are Eddy Hurtado and Christian Gatlin. Hurtado has since walked on to the UTPB men’s soccer team. Gatlin was the defensive presence for the Bronchos last year who helped organize the team as much as anyone.
“We lost those seniors that were very good,” Ortiz said. “Two guys that improved that are coming up can make that difference. We have so many of them coming up that they can fill the big holes that were left. Maybe not by one person, but two or three can fill one.”
The team will still play the aggressive counter-attacking style it did a season ago with last year’s junior class taking the reins on the field.
“This is more than just a team, it’s like a family,” said Odessa High senior Pedro Colomo. “And I think we have enough to fight for state. We feel more confident than last year and we have more skill and teamwork.”
The Panthers’ goals for their nondistrict slate are straightforward. They just have to do the same things they did last year.
Permian had a strong first month of play last year, racking up several wins before it all came crashing down in district play.
Whether it was the injury bug, a string of bad games or bad luck, the Panthers couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole of losing five of their first six district games.
“I don’t know what it was,” said Permian senior defender RayJay Diaz. “In the preseason, we were a great team and we beat a lot of playoff teams, we were looking great. And then the district season came along and it all went downhill. I really do not know what it was.
“Last year we were juniors so we were still a little bit nervous and wanted to play for the seniors, but I feel like this is our year and most of us are seniors and we know a little bit more what to do.”
Permian head coach Luis Carmona had a little less trouble putting his finger on what derailed his teams’ season.
“I think last year our inexperience was evident at some key positions,” Carmona said, who is entering his 13th season guiding the Panthers. “I think a bunch of guys were put under tremendous pressure that they’ve never been used to. Hopefully everything we went through last year is going to pay off this year.”
For the second year in a row however, some younger Permian players will see a lot of playing time. Sophomores Zach Whisenant and Angel Esparza will start on defense while a few others will have impact roles off the bench.
“We’re going to have to play totally different,” Carmona said. “For one we’re not as fast as we used to be so we’re going to learn to how possess the ball a little bit more and be patient. With the guys we have retuning, we have full confidence that we can get the job done.
“I think overall this year I don’t think we can say we have a standout kid. It’s going to have to be a good team performance.”
Permian has already put together quality scrimmage performances against Cedar Park and Brownwood.
“This year we are really betting on this team,” said Permian midfielder Logan Smith. “Not only because it’s my senior year but it’s a lot of the guys’ senior years. So I want them to go out there every day and give it their all pretty much. We just want this year to be the best.”