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Ridge Point's girls soccer team celebrates with a banner and trophy after winning the Falcon bracket of the I-10 Shootout tournament in Katy. The Panthers went 3-0 and outscored opponents, 7-1.
KATY—Ridge Point girls soccer coach Evelyn Torres has a team with a lot to prove. So far, she likes what she sees, but she also knows the end game remains a long way.
The Panthers were highly regarded last season, one of the region’s favorites, before sputtering late and falling in the area playoffs.
“We weren’t able to go as far as we thought we should have,” Torres said. “The girls do have a chip on their shoulder and they’re ready to do what they’re supposed to.”
There is a different moxie to year’s Panthers. Eleven seniors graduated from last year. A few freshmen dot the roster. There is a new set of captains.
And while not many expected much out of Ridge Point this season, because of the newness and disappointing collapse last season, the Panthers are 5-0 after winning the highly competitive Falcon bracket of the 64-team I-10 Shootout tournament on Saturday at Legacy Stadium.
.@RPHSGirlsSoccer again! Looks like junior Hannah Warnken on the back tap. 2-0 Panthers, 6:55, 1H. @i10shootout @FBISDAthletics @RP_PantherPride @RPHS_Pantherspic.twitter.com/wDPflI8Iho — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
Ridge Point took down San Antonio Johnson, 1-0; nipped Katy Jordan, 1-0, in a game that was called at halftime after referees walked off due to conflict with the Jordan coach; and routed Cy-Woods, 5-1, in the bracket final. The Panthers are ranked No. 2 in Region III by Lethal Enforcer Soccer.
“They’ve proven themselves so far,” Torres said. “I think it’s about keeping it consistent and being hot at the right time. Last year, we were hot at the beginning but not at the end, and that’s when it counts.”
Junior Hannah Warnken said confidence and leadership needed to be better this season. Being named one of two captains along with senior Lauren Walker, Warnken took it personally to see to it that happened.
Along with Warnken and Walker, juniors Zoe Main and Charlotte Richardson have provided a capable, reliable core of leading talent.
Main “always finds a way” offensively, Torres said. Warnken’s high energy and intensity on the field are admirable constants. She had four of Ridge Point's five goals against Cy-Woods. Richardson is a magician possessing the ball and switching field, along with Walker. Richardson had a goal and two assists versus Cy-Woods.
What a shot by @RPHSGirlsSoccer junior Charlotte Richardson! A missile off the keeper. 1-0 Panthers, 27:56, 1H. @i10shootout @FBISDAthletics @RP_PantherPride @RPHS_Pantherspic.twitter.com/zYbr2ATZS6 — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
The Panthers are buoyed with an influx of freshmen in Laurel Kelley, Emma Lovell, and Kelsey Vaughn who have quickly emerged as contributors.
“There’s a lot of new people,” Main said. “It’s brought a new environment. Everything is different.”
While Ridge Point has always been potent on the attack, its defense has taken considerable steps forward. A big reason why is junior transfer Georgia Mulholland from St. Agnes.
In the I-10 Shootout, Mulholland never left the field. She was recognized as one of the top players in the tournament.
“What’s helping is we’re trying to play more out of the back, balls to feet, communicating with each other,” Mulholland said. “We’re connecting with each other. We’re dropping in coverage … just really communicating well.”
The Panthers have allowed one goal in five games. A group of talented juniors that includes Taylor Vinson, Kara Canetti, and Alicia Audu has been with Torres since their freshman year.
The defense is reaping the rewards of their maturity and experience.
“We’ve used different goalies, and it’s been impressive that they’ve been able to adapt and do a good job,” Main said.
Chemistry is a boon for the Panthers, another testament to the leadership.
Warnken said the team has bonded well, on and off the field. It’s made it easier for them to learn to play together.
“Everyone thought we were going to drop off this year,” Main said. “I think we proved everyone wrong with this tournament, showing we are still as capable as last year and just as good. All it takes is determination and we’ve been working really hard.”
With the new dynamic of personnel has come a new approach.
“It’s about not getting cocky,” Main said. “Last year, we were rated really high, and I think it got to us and we started thinking we were better than what we were. This year, we have the right mindset. We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re approaching everything right.”
The Panthers’ fast start and slow finish last season exposed them to what is necessary.
“It’ll take a lot more practice,” Warnken said. “Definitely a lot more concentration, on and off the field. Not just games, but practices. All of it. No more goofing around. There is a thin line between having fun and staying focused.”
Fort Bend Marshall is ranked No. 11 in Class 5A in the state, is 18-2 overall, and 7-0 in District 24-5A.
FULSHEAR—Ronnie Courtney has coached a lot of great high school basketball teams. He’s won state championships at two schools: two at Willowridge and one at Fort Bend Bush.
And while this year’s Fort Bend Marshall team is 18-2, 7-0 in District 24-5A, and ranked No. 11 in Class 5A in the state, it has a long way to go to meet Courtney’s standard of greatness.
“Potentially, they have an opportunity to go as far as they decide they want to go,” said Courtney, in his second season at the helm of the Buffs. “Talent-wise, against previous teams, they’re a long way off. You go all the way back to Willowridge and Bush, where I never had a losing season and never lost more than 10 games.
“This team is good in its own way, and they play so hard for me. I really enjoy coaching them and they make practice so much easier and so much fun.”
Marshall’s effort and firepower was on full display Tuesday as it routed Fulshear, 97-61, to stay undefeated in district. The Buffs, who play with relentless defensive pressure that leads to overwhelming pace on offense, forced 20 turnovers and scored 53 points in the first half. They scored at the rim, from long range (eight of 18 from 3) and at the line (15 of 25 free throws).
The Buffs are outscoring opponents by an average of 22 points per game. Their only two losses have come against Class 6A schools Ridge Point and Bush.
“I like the direction, but I’m not satisfied,” Courtney said. “No coach is ever satisfied. I’m trying to get to 16-0 (in district). That road is not easy. Foster is really good. We’ve got to deal with Hightower. So, it’s not going to be an easy chore, but it’s attainable.”
Four observations from watching Marshall handle Fulshear on Friday:
>> LOWE COMING INTO HIS OWN
Junior point guard Jaland Lowe was once again exceptional for the Buffs, scoring a game-high 31 points to go with five rebounds and five assists.
“I’m just trying to be a better leader and do what my team needs me to do, day in and day out,” said Lowe, a smooth-scoring left-hander. “I’m just trying to perfect that. I think there are a lot of things I still need to work on. I’m trying to get well-rounded everywhere.”
Courtney said Lowe is more confident.
“Last year, he was trying to feel his way,” Courtney said. “Now, he’s my guy. I can’t do without him on the floor.”
.@jalandlowe caps off a 20-point half for him and a 50-plus point half for @MarshallBuffs with a deep buzzer-beating 3-ball. Buffs putting on a show, lead 53-28 at the break. #txhshoops @FBISDAthleticspic.twitter.com/dUR1LJtRB4 — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
Courtney likes telling a story about when Lowe asked to meet him in his office one day. He had drawn up some plays and wanted to show his coach.
Courtney, without hesitation, allowed Lowe to put the plays in.
“He is truly a coach on the floor, and he’s the type of kid you want to be a leader of your program,” Courtney said.
>> MARSHALL A THRILLER ON COURT, TOO
Senior wing Chris Marshall was a four-star recruit in football. He’ll probably be playing on Sundays someday. At the Under Armour All-America all-star game earlier this month in Orlando, Marshall’s performance stood out most as ESPN broadcasts and analysts raved about him.
However, as electric as Marshall is on the field, his first love is hoops. It shows in his play. The 6-foot-4 Marshall scored 14 points with three rebounds and three assists. And while he is a highlight-reel dunker because of his insane athleticism—his breakaway one-handed slam in the first quarter had fans from both teams out of their seats—Marshall is a gifted shooter and has a flair for passing, often finding open teammates with crosscourt passes.
“You probably won’t even believe it, by my favorite (sport) is basketball,” Marshall said. “That’s what I love to do. I could hoop all day. I love competing against other great players every time I come out here on the court. I come out here and give it my all against whoever I’m playing against.”
.@chhris_m!! @MarshallBuffs @FBISDAthletics #txhshoopspic.twitter.com/g020NWhoCR — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
Marshall has a maturity and poise on the court this year that he credits to Courtney.
“Hall of Famer. Legend. I’ve learned so much from him,” Marshall said. “Leadership. Me being a better leader my senior year and coming out and leading these juniors and sophomores. I ain’t ever had the chance to play in the playoffs in basketball, so that’s my goal this year. Go win state. We’ve got the team. We can do it.”
>> STRONG SUPPORT
Courtney has been pleased with the emergence of players like juniors Jaylen Reedus and Trey Roberts.
Reedus is a strong, physical rebounder who gives the Buffs quickness and intensity in the paint. He had eight points and six rebounds.
Roberts is a knockdown shooter whose confidence continues to grow with each game. He made two of three triples.
Senior Omani Ozenne (11 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore Chris Catchings (eight points, five rebounds) also contributed and enjoyed spurts of outstanding play.
“Those guys will help us go as far as we want to go,” Courtney said.
>> ONE FOR ALL
Aside from elite coaching and playmaking, Marshall has a desire and familial dynamic that players say will get them far.
“We’re all bought in to this,” Lowe said. “Having everybody with the same mindset of really wanting to win and make a great run is what’s got us clicking. This team plays hard. Teams know every day we’re going to give it our all. We don’t want to lose, so that’s what keeps us going.”
Chris Marshall has been a part of great teams. The Marshall football team is perennially a regional contender year in and year out, and he has been a huge part of its success the last two years. He knows a good team when he sees it—it’s a big reason why he chose to go to Texas A&M—and said Marshall has it.
“Our bond is what’s got us,” Marshall said. “We compete every day and work hard every day in practice. Us coming out here, we have that bond because of that work and we’re able to build that chemistry every time we step on the court.”