The list of reasons why the Schuyler boys soccer team shouldn’t be in the state tournament is long.
Sixteen seniors graduated from last year’s Class B runner-up squad. Injuries have taken their toll. A light schedule presented few challenges.
And yet still, there are the Warriors, back in the mix in the state tournament. Fifth-ranked Schuyler takes on No. 3 Gretna at 3 p.m. Friday at Creighton’s Morrison Stadium in a rematch of last year’s Class B title game.
“I think we surprised everyone but ourselves,” Schuyler coach Lyn Beebe said. “We’ve had a season that probably a lot of people didn’t expect us to have.”
A group that reached last year’s state championship match lost 64 percent of its scoring from last season, including Jonathan Lara and Victor Cruz’s 36 combined goals.
That team spent much of the season atop the Class B ratings.
Much less was expected from this year’s team. Only eight players returned.
“I know we lost good guys last year, but we’re actually pretty good,” sophomore Agustin Palma said. “This year we got a new team. I knew our guys would step it up. We’ve been progressing each practice, each day.”
Those that did return were talented. Younger players stepped into voided roles.
“I think it’s had a big effect on these younger players,” Beebe said of last year’s state tournament run. “They can now see what they are capable of and what can happen if they dedicate themselves and play as a team. Really, I thought it was a great momentum builder, not only for this year, but for who knows how far.”
Schuyler lost its season-opener to a solid Elkhorn Mount Michael team. They didn’t lose again for six weeks before a 3-0 setback to second-ranked South Sioux City in the District B-4 final last week.
But along the way, there were fewer matches than most the top teams in the state played. A canceled conference tournament trimmed an already light schedule even more. The Warriors had played 10 games entering districts.
They’ve played two state tournament teams, beating Grand Island Northwest 3-1 and losing to South Sioux City.
“It’s been kind of a struggle in a way,” Beebe said of his team’s lack of games. “When you don’t have the conditioning and game experience … it shows up. That was probably one of the things that made us nervous going in to districts. It was something we needed to find out.
“But everybody now is 0-0. All you have to do is go 3-0.”
That process starts with the same Gretna team that beat the Warriors 5-2 in the state championship. Gretna also beat Schuyler in the 2002 title game.
“It makes it a lot more exciting that it’s them,” sophomore Daniel Maganda said.
»NOTE: Tickets for this year’s state tournament are available for purchase online at the Nebraska School Activities Association’s website: www.nsaahome.org. Adult tickets for each session are $7, while student tickets are $5.
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