It’s hard to believe that a couple years can make such a big difference, but for the Lake Highlands High School boys soccer team, it did. Two years ago, the team finished last in their district. This year, they finished second in state, ninth nationally, with an overall record of 27 wins, four losses and one tie.


          Though they lost the state championship game to SA Churchill, coach Hanes Brindley says the boys should be proud of a stellar season.


          “We played in every possible game we could this year. We advanced to the second round in every tournament, and we played every game we could possibly play in the playoffs,” he says.


          Nearly half the team — 10 of 22 players — were seniors, meaning many of them were around two years ago for the season of defeat.


          “Finishing last in district probably was a motivating factor for them,” Brindley says. Still, he says, that takes nothing away from the skill of all his players.


          “We had an incredibly talented group of players coming in both years,” he says. “We just were fortunate to have really good players coming in that wanted to win.”


          Brindley, who came to LHHS two years ago, says coaching this team has been a “growing experience” — for him and the team.


          “It’s been a challenge,” says Brindley, who’d had a six-year hiatus as head coach prior to joining LHHS. “It’s been a pretty rough time. But it’s also been a learning experience and we were fortunate we were able to get these guys to work hard and work together.”


          But work together they did, thanks in part to their coach’s policy of having the team go out as one during game intros and breaking from a group huddle after each practice.


          “I learned that from my previous boss,” Brindley says. “And we really ran with it here at Lake Highlands. Anybody who saw the games can attest to our team unity.”


          In addition to making it to the last round of playoffs, the team won Richardson ISD’s Ice Bowl tournament, won the Garland Invitational and finished third in the Duncanville Kickoff Classic. Also, many team members received individual awards, including:


• Luis Paiva — District Nine 5A MVP (“That honor usually goes to a senior,” Brindley says. Paiva is a sophomore.)


• Tim Lonergan — District Nine 5A Defensive MVP


• Steven Ringer and Jesse Pitts — District Nine 5A Offensive MVPs


• Jesse Pitts — Dallas Morning News’ All-Area Team Newcomer of the Year


• Stephen Ringer — Dallas Morning News All-Area Team


• Colin Mayo — First Team, All-District


• Craig Lauck and Stephen Sprague — First Team, All-District


          In all, 16 boys were named to the District 9 5A All-District Team. Other team members include Craig Birch, Chase Delong, Billy Glass, Sy Symonds, Jamie DeWitt, Ricky Matthies, Ray Kimbrell, Manuel Mariel, Esteban Mariel, Michael Jordan, Trey Witt, Matt Smith, Sam Acker, Victor Cadena and Court Goolsby.


Though nearly half the team is graduating (most of the seniors are going on to play college soccer), Brindley is confident that the team will continue with its winning tradition.


“We have a really strong sophomore class — five sophomores who were just incredible — and a lot of these guys are high-level club players,” he says.