BY DENNIS SILVA II | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The first 11 games of the season have felt like twice that many for Seven Lakes.
“We’ve had a dramatic start,” senior goalkeeper Andre Schlaefli understated.
A new head coach. Injuries to key players. Players competing in new positions.
And yet, through it all, the Spartans are 9-0-2, and 1-0-1 in District 19-6A, following Saturday’s 2-0 win over reloading Cinco Ranch at Legacy Stadium.
“It’s definitely been a change. It’s different,” junior midfielder Luciano Torres said. “We’re playing out wide more instead of through the middle. Things like that. We’re out here doing the best we can.”
Their best is pretty good, and for new old coach Darryl Metcalfe, that’s been a relief.
Metcalfe took over as interim head coach on Nov. 9 in place of Jimmy Krueger, who led the program to three district titles in the last six years. Metcalfe has not been a head coach since 2009, but was the program’s first head coach when the school opened; Krueger was his assistant coach then.
Metcalfe had retired to teach AP classes and had been the head chair of the social studies department. He returned to the coaching ranks last season as Krueger’s junior varsity coach.
Schematically, Metcalfe has introduced a more open style of play that goes through the wings to take advantage of a quick and speedy club. Philosophically, he has predicated practices upon hard work and effort.
“It all happened where (Krueger) got suspended, and it’s been tough,” said Metcalfe, who has 26 years of head coaching experience at Seven Lakes, Taylor and Westfield, the latter two programs he led to the state finals. “But the kids have handled it really well. I just coach like how I would coach the team. If Coach Krueger comes back, great. If not, well … they’ve handled it well.
“It’s been a fun experience. I’ve enjoyed it. I wish it hadn’t happened, but now that we’re here … it’s like riding a bike. After so long, you remember how to do it because you’ve done it before.”
Only three Spartans played varsity last year. Seventeen seniors graduated from last year’s district champion and area finalist. This current batch of talent has experience with Metcalfe from the junior varsity, which made the transition to him as head coach a bit easier to adjust to.
Still, all that newness led to a predictably tough start to the season.
“The first few weeks, we were a disaster,” Schlaefli said. “Our passes, our mentality … everything was terrible. But we understand we have to do this not just for ourselves, but for the school and all the parents that are out here supporting us. We have to do it for Coach Metcalfe, who took on more responsibility outside of his teaching duties just to be with us. This isn’t about us. This is about everyone else.”
Eventually, Seven Lakes found its footing, a dominant imprint.
The Spartans have allowed just five goals so far, while finding the net 28 times on their own. Depth has been a boon. Even without star midfielder Nico Molina, for instance, against Cinco Ranch, Seven Lakes found plenty of production in the likes of Torres, who had a goal and assist; junior defender JP Dominguez; senior defender Jose Garcia; and the strong defensive playmaking of Schlaefli, a natural leader.
“During non-district, we played a lot of guys at different spots, just in case this happened,” said Metcalfe, who noted he had four players who played almost half the game Saturday who saw little time during the team’s tie against Tompkins on Wednesday. “Nico missed the first three games because of a tournament in Florida, so it helps someone like (senior William Wallace) who had a good game for us today because he played so many minutes in non-district.”
There are still rough edges—Metcalfe’s 4-5-1 system at times looks like a 4-3-3—but talent and skill fill the cupboard for the Spartans.
“Coach Metcalfe has done a great job and all the guys are just putting in effort,” Schlaefli said. “We have a team that will leave everything out on the field. We hope great things are ahead of us.”