80° F Saturday, March 25, 2017

Success supersedes superstition.

Yet superstition still sticks with the highly successful Westlake girls soccer team through all they do as the Chaparrals have ritually stacked up victories this season.

From sitting in the exact same bus seats, to eating the same meal on game days, to wearing the same color prewrap tape, the Chaparrals have stuck with superstitions to methodically march past the competition to the tune of a school-record season.

Westlake has won every game this season, an undefeated streak unrivaled at the school, all dictated by a dominating defense that has allowed a mere four goals all season.

The team isn’t ready for the routine to run its course just yet as they continue toward their march in search of a state title.

Senior defenders Hannah Meyer and Alexandra Laguarta have seen the team evolve over the years playing defense together the past three seasons, all the while making sure they get to the same sub sandwich shop before every single game.

“We’re a very superstitious team,” Meyer said. “Ever since our first tournament, we’ve all sat in the same seat on the bus. We all use the same color prewrap before every game. We go to Thundercloud before every single game. We’ve skipped a class to go to Thundercloud because we didn’t have time.”

The team even uses the same “$12.99 boombox” before every game to listen to their perfect mix of music, which has always started – since they can remember – with the song “Birds Flyin’ High.”

“What really has bonded us is we get into a good routine,” Laguarta said. “That’s just another tool we use to help us focus in.

“It works.”

It wasn’t clear if she meant the boombox, or the superstitions, but the team has taken on an identity that somehow reflects each player on the roster this season – from the four sophomores who play significant minutes to the newcomer freshman to four-year letterman Christy Goldberg and Meyer.

The veterans learned how to incorporate the younger players from the veterans before them, with even the sandwich shop stop tradition stemming from the 2011 season.

“It’s important to remember everyone on the team brings something different to the table, and you have to recognize that what you bring and what someone else brings are going to be completely different,” Meyer said, “but what they bring deserves just as much respect as what you bring.”

That first bus trip to the tournament in Katy set the stage for this team to start realizing it’s true talents – and superstitions – of their own.

Westlake embarked on another long trip to play Kingwood tonight in Humble, near Houston.

“It’s a three hour drive, and people say that seems really far,” Laguarta said. “But the bus actually settles us down. All that time is just time you are only with your teammates. There’s always funny stuff going on, the younger ones especially this year are so energetic. Their youth and energy has helped our team just as much as the seniors’ experience and dedication.”

Awesome offense, dictating defense

Seasonally, Westlake coach Rennie Rebe reworks the roster with numerous freshman and sophomores joining the team.

Goldberg leads the team offensively this season with 32 goals and 15 assists, while sophomore Kendall Ritchie, junior Rachel Coyle, freshman Hailey Bishop and senior Julia Thurston have also helped the team rattle off 26 consecutive wins.

Yet the very skilled Kalli Douma is rarely challenged as it’s been the defensive domination that has let Westlake win time after time.

Coming into this season, the team had big shoes to fill but still knew they would be good. How good was a surprise, and they aren’t going to jinx that by getting cocky at the season’s end.

“Honestly, at the very beginning of the season, we were all hesitant on how well we’d do,” Laguarta said. “We didn’t think we’d be as good as we are, which is a blessing I guess coming in not overconfident. We know how good we are, but we don’t let that get to our heads. We know what we’ve accomplished but we know what we’ve accomplished doesn’t have anything to do with what we’re doing now. It’s kind of a blank slate. We know being undefeated is a big deal, but we also know we can be defeated if we don’t play up to our top game.”

Passion play

Rebe says she consistently remind her team of their potential, despite the record and the proven track record. Last year’s district coach of the year took the team to the regional quarterfinals a season ago.

“They have such great spirit and team chemistry; it’d be nice to see them achieve some of their goals,” she said of this season’s run. “I am pulling for them. It’s nice to see nice kids being successful. Because they are so nice, I have to tell them they should be confident playing anyone, anywhere.”

The tradition, and superstition, continues to go from one season to another thanks to Rebe’s dedication to let the team figure out how to blend together.

“She’s always had an incredible passion, and everyone that plays on varsity has an incredible passion; that’s why we have success,” Meyer said. “When a freshman comes on they don’t know what Westlake soccer is about. Theres a lot of things, you kind of have to pay your dues. There’s things you have to do, and you have to put in a lot of work because the older players have been here longer and have the experience.

“Personally, I feel like this team has more heart than any other team I’ve ever played on. At the end of the day, that’s what makes the biggest difference.”

Added Laguarta, “This is my favorite season of soccer, ever.”

Westlake plays Kingwood in the regional quarterfinals 7:30 p.m. tonight at Turner Stadium in Humble.

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