HITTING THE RESET BUTTON: Spring Woods Rebuilding After Successful Decade-Long Run
THE SPRING WOODS BOYS SOCCER PROGRAM IS NO STRANGER TO SUCCESS.
Prior to the 2021 season, the Tigers made the playoffs 10 consecutive years. Four times, they made the regional tournament; twice, they reached the final. They won five district titles over that period.
“We’ve had a pretty successful program,” said coach Wadey Yaya, head coach in 17 of his 18 years at Spring Woods, “all the way up until last year.”
And now Yaya finds himself in an unfamiliar circumstance, one his program IS a stranger to.
“We’re rebuilding versus reloading,” he said. The Tigers went 1-18-4 in 2021, easily the worst record posted in Yaya’s time there. This year, however, has produced a remarkable turnaround early on.
The Tigers are young again this year, but already surpassed last season’s win total with four in their first seven games, with wins over state semifinalist Allen, perennial regional contender Cinco Ranch, and playoff teams New Braunfels and Round Rock Westwood.
“I have a really good group of boys this year,” Yaya said. “They’re young, there’s some inexperience and youth. But I have good leadership. Leaders that speak for the team as a whole and are genuine. Chemistry is whole. Mentally, though, they’re still boys who are learning to play like men. We’re a good team.”
Spring Woods consists of 10 juniors and four sophomores.
Three sophomores start and four seniors start.
Senior goalkeeper Dario Pantoja is a second-year letterman who was a backup last year and is turning heads with his improved play. Senior playmaking midfielder Alex Banda is a four-year letterman who played as a freshman on the 2019 team that went to the regional final.
“He’s been a winner,” Yaya said of Banda. “He knows what it takes to get there. He truly is one of the best players on the team.”
Sophomore Oscar Martinez has become a voice in the locker room and respected leader.
Senior Uzziel Luna plays an outside midfielder role with a defensive emphasis. He’s a strong technical player and the one Tiger who holds others accountable, on and off the field.
“He’s a really hard worker and he’s taken on a leadership role,” Yaya said. “He’s the vocal one on our team right now. He’s a guy everyone respects because of his constructive demeanor.”
Chemistry and leadership are staples of this year’s Tigers.
Depth is impressive; Yaya can go 16 deep. The defense is a strength. The central midfield is a point of concern for Yaya, but is also the most talented group, largely due to precocious sophomore Gregory Tejada, a gritty, workman-like talent.
Yaya wants his players to find the solace and resolve in Spring Woods soccer that were once program cornerstones. They’re on their way. The Tigers are a team that pays attention, listens, takes admirably to coaching, and works well together.
“We have a lot to prove this year, and that’s something we’re trying to figure out,” Yaya said. “But even though we only one won game last year, there is still a target on our back. All the good teams want to play us. People still talk about us. They know they’re going to get the best from us.”