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Cinco Ranch's Daniel Vargas
Katy ISD Soccer is absolutely loaded when it comes to talent, which is emphasized by the fact that four teams from the same division have advanced to the UIL Regional Quarterfinals.
Not only will the surging Paetow and Jordan be facing off, but one of the most anticipated matchups of the UIL Regional Quarterfinals features a clash between district rivals -- Cinco Ranch and Seven Lakes.
Cinco Ranch has proven themselves to be an imposing force on the pitch, touting a 10-5-5 record to finish in the No. 3 spot in their top-tier district (19-6A). In addition, the Cougars upset the Fort Bend favorites, Ridge Point, in the opening round (2-2; 3-1 Penalty Shootout), before trouncing Westside (5-2) in the Area Round.
Cinco Ranch following their Area Round Championship
However, CRHS will have their work cut out for them against one of the best soccer programs in Texas -- Seven Lakes.
But, when teams are as familiar with each other as these two, anything can happen. This is something Cinco Ranch’s coach Ryan Searle knows all too well.
“Seven Lakes is a very talented, well-run group,” said Searle. “Coach [Jim] Krueger has that team running like a well-oiled machine. They’ll be a tough team to beat, since it’s hard to break them down, especially with the attack they have. With that in mind, we’re going to need to be even tougher on defense and minimize mistakes. It will be a hard-fought game and since we are rivals, the boys all know each other which will make the matchup that much more motivating for us.”
Cinco Ranch's Daniel VargasPhoto provided by HC Ryan Searle
This season marks Searle’s second at Cinco Ranch, after he and assistant coach John Trautner, took the mantle of leading the Katy school’s soccer program after their experience at Kingwood Park.
Fortunately for Searle, he has been provided the opportunity to work with the exceptional talent that makes up Cinco Ranch’s stellar roster.
Cinco Ranch's Ossian ElgstromPhoto provided by HC Ryan Searle
“One of our biggest standouts this year has been Ossian [Elgstrom],” Searle said. “He’s our junior center back, who is a phenomenal defender. He’s hands-down one of the best in Katy and will be our rock in the back. Up front, we have Danny Vargas (Sr. Forward), who leads Katy ISD in career goals. He’s been a four-year starter for Cinco and has been great for our attack with 17 goals on the season, with 15 in district.”
As previously mentioned, Katy ISD is among the best in regards to the level of competition they bring, which Searle recognized almost immediately.
“Katy is a completely different ball game,” he said. “The talent-level is something else, which means there aren’t really any blowout games in the district and any team can become a contender for the State Title. The soccer is just insane here.”
This matchup between Cinco Ranch and Seven Lakes is being hyped up for good reason. The winner of this game might just become the favorites for the 6A State Championship.
Pearland Soccer huddles prior to a bigtime matchup
Pearland soccer is on the precipice of making history for their school.
Following their recent 2-1 victory over Kingwood in the Area Round, the Oilers are preparing to face off against Dobie in the Regional Quarterfinals in order to proceed to the Semis, which would be the furthest that Pearland has ever advanced in the State Tournament.
Pearland Soccer followinf their Area Round Championship
The Oilers have enjoyed an impressive 14-3-10 (W-L-T) season and an even greater postseason, which can be attributed to their star athletes and experienced coaching.
However, what is uncommonly astounding about this team is the fact that four of their athletes are currently honoring their Islamic heritage through Ramadan, which entails an entire month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.
Photo by Loyd Hendricks (Pearland)
This year’s Ramadan is taking place during the heat of UIL postseason soccer (March 22-April 10), which means that these players cannot eat or drink from dusk to dawn, which could significantly impact the energy that one has.
However, these remarkable young players, including Pearland’s star forward Yousef Elnokali (2022 District 23-6A OPOY), who scored a hat trick in the Bi-District round, have shown their mettle in the face of adversity.
Pearland's Yousef ElnokaliPhoto by Loyd Hendricks (Pearland)
“What’s amazing to me is that they [Pearland’s Muslim players] kind of train their bodies to endure,” said coach Scott Macneish. “Despite not having any food or water throughout the day they still manage to stand out. Along with Yousef [Elnokali], one of my starting defenders, Ashraf Adi (Sr.), runs more than anybody since he’s kind of a wingback. They do such an amazing job, and I don’t know how they do it.”
In addition, Macneish has communicated with the coaches of opposing teams ahead of games to see if they would be willing to stop play for a moment to allow the Muslim players to eat and drink water when they’re finally permitted to at 7:35 pm.
Pearland's Ashraf AdiPhoto by Loyd Hendricks (Pearland)
Despite the competitive nature of the postseason, Macneish acknowledged how supportive the coaches were of this request.
“The other teams’ coaches, [Daniel] Edinburgh at Dickinson, [Bryan] Jennings at Kingwood and [Justo] Manrique at Dobie haven’t even blinked when I asked this of them,” he said. “The coolest thing was when Ramadan broke when we played Dickinson, and as soon as 7:35 came around, everybody was giving our four Muslim players drinks while they ate, and everyone applauded for them. It was just incredible.”
Soccer is one of the most diverse sports in the world, which is being put on full display by Pearland.
Photo by Loyd Hendricks
“What’s cool is that we do have a team that’s diverse,” Macneish said. “We have a guy from Trinidad Tobago, we have some Asian players, as well as some Hispanic, White and African American players. Somehow, we’re able to kind of mesh it up into a melting pot and make this stellar team. Everybody sort of gets a lesson on different cultures, which is what makes this team and this game so special.”
This is an impressive team on multiple fronts. Stay tuned for more with Pearland soccer.