Undefeated Ridge Point playing with chip on shoulder

Undefeated Ridge Point playing with chip on shoulder (Copyright (c) 2022 VYPE - All rights reserved)

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.

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.

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.”