HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER: Odessa High hopes experience will pay off in district play

The Odessa High boys and girls soccer teams already know their most important minutes of the season will happen at Ratliff Stadium.

Their final five games will all take place in the city of Odessa with their only road contest against Permian. The Bronchos and Lady Bronchos also know their last eight district games will take place in the Permian Basin with road trips to face Wolfforth Frenship and Amarillo Tascosa starting District 2-6A play tonight and Tuesday.

Odessa High faces Wolfforth Frenship at 5:30 p.m. tonight for the girls, followed at 7:30 for the boys, at the Frenship Soccer Stadium.

“We’ve had a lot of games — we tried to get as many games as we possibly could under UIL and just to get the young guys some experience and just to get us touches because we need those games,” Odessa High boys head coach Eliseo Ortiz said. “I think we’re in a good place, you see the potential in them.”

It was at this time last year that the Bronchos (3-4-3) were able to turn up their intensity after a slow start to their season and clinch a playoff berth.

History has almost repeated itself this season with Odessa High having a slightly better record.

“We had to learn a lot of the same lessons,” Ortiz said. “It kind of repeated itself.”

Several players from last year’s team are back and remember that experience. They remember winning early in district to set the pace, defeating Permian 2-0 in their first crosstown rivalry matchup of the season on a hot Saturday afternoon, and clinching a playoff berth, also against Permian.

Maybe most importantly, they remember how district play ended — with a road victory against district champion Midland High.

“They know the game and what to do,” Bronchos’ midfielder Chris Navarrete said about his teammates. “They have the experience and know what to expect from the other teams. That’s what you need on the team.”

In their four losses however, the Bronchos didn’t see the style of play they wanted or that won them those district games a season ago. With what they learned last season, they were able to overcome some of those missteps more quickly than they did a year ago.

“I think the team has been giving it more effort,” senior Ricardo Medrano said. “We saw that at times when we didn’t progress as much as we wanted to and overcome the obstacles we face. We just have to put the effort in.”

As for having their last eight games in Odessa or Midland, Ortiz likes his team’s chances to be successful.

“If we take good care of our home games, we could have a good record,” Ortiz said. “It’s going be a very interesting district because everyone is pretty much at the same level. Whoever limits those mistakes is the one who’s going to win it all. I don’t think there will be one dominant team. It’s pretty exciting to know that.”

The Lady Bronchos (10-1-2) have also had a similar nondistrict schedule to the one they had a year ago.

In 2016, Odessa High had a strong start to the season, only to fall short of the playoffs by two points.

Lady Bronchos’ head coach Cecilia Kellar knows how close the team was to making postseason play a season ago. That feeling of discontent has stuck with her and her team.

“Everyone who is here knows that we had a quality team last year,” Kellar said. “That is sometimes how things work out. I think they want to see better results.”

The Lady Bronchos are the only District 2-6A team — male or female — to enter district play with double digit wins. That includes a 10-0 win over Lubbock Estacado last month.

“I think the team has done a good job of progressing throughout the preseason,” Kellar said. “They’ve done a good job of finding consistency in their play. We’re at a point right now that we feel pretty confident about a consistent team showing up. They’ve gotten better with each game.”

Kellar is confident her team won’t feel any affect with the switch to district play as it’s played a similar Tuesday-Friday schedule in recent weeks, as well as playing several games in the span of a short amount of time in tournaments.

“We know exactly what we want from district,” Odessa High senior midfielder Stephanie Renteria said. “I don’t think we have a limit, I expect us to go pretty far.”

The Lady Bronchos don’t mind traveling to start out district, as that’s what they’ve been doing to win most of their games this season.

“There’s no preference, you go out there and play your game,” Lady Bronchos’ forward Ashley Venegas said. “It doesn’t matter where you are. I expect our team to just be better and work together on the field as well and work together in our formations.”

Odessa High knows it won’t have to make a trip to Amarillo or Wolfforth with its season on the line, something that it hopes will give both its boys and girls team the playoff push it needs.

“The goal to obviously produce some wins in district as we continue to progress throughout the district season so that we can be closer to peaking as we’re in the playoffs,” Kellar said. “There’s no better way to start than to start with Frenship.”