MARBLE FALLS — Two days later, losing to Austin LBJ in the bi-district round of the Class 4A boys soccer playoffs has done little to dampen the success the Marble Falls High School team enjoyed this season.
The Mustangs (18-8-1, 9-5 in District 49-4A) have plenty of reasons to be pleased with their season, the most successful in the Michael Nave era.
The head coach called it “a season of firsts.”
It marked the first season in the new Mustang Stadium, where the players vowed to have a winning record. They went 8-4.
They also played for the championship of their own Winter Classic. They came in second.
They finished second at the Stephenville Tournament — one of the most prestigious in the state.
“If we hadn’t had to play three games in a row, we might have won it,” Nave said.
The Mustangs posted 10 shutouts this season. Last year it was five.
The program attracted so many players that Nave could have a varsity and two junior varsity teams.
And they each posted winning records. Overall, the squads went 40-15-8 with JV Purple going 15-5-4, including beating the Killeen Shoemaker varsity team, a Class 5A program. The JV finished fourth in the Winter Classic.
JV Gold finished 7-2-3.
That made him so proud, Nave said, “especially figuring we’re about the smallest Class 4A around.
“I was surprised we had three teams,” he said. “Surprised at the success of the third team. On varsity, that was our expectation.”
Two years ago the seniors and juniors made coaches notice the players’ speed, field sense and ability to finish plays.
“They are a talented group,” Nave said. “We had high expectations for them. They changed the culture of the program.”
While the record and the facility was obvious, the Mustangs skipper said he also was pleased with their everyday preparation.
They had a business-like approach to practices and games.
If Nave had to call a meeting to make sure his players stayed focused, he always was pleased to see the response.
“In practices or games, they go to work,” he said. “The mental preparation and mental focus on game day developed last year. I felt like we played some good soccer every game we played.”
Even when the Mustangs lost, he was able to review film and see his players performed well, Nave said. Usually they would out-shoot the opponent but may not always score.
One thing coaches will emphasize during the offseason is the Mustangs’ ability to record a signature win, something that has alluded the program.
And that was apparent in the final two home losses, Nave said.
The first was a 1-0 setback to powerhouse Lake Travis, while the other was a season-ending 3-0 playoff loss to LBJ.
In both contests, Nave believed his team outplayed the opponents in the first half but didn’t have the goals to show for it.
The loss to LBJ was especially disheartening because Marble Falls had taken four shots on goal before the Jaguars could score their first goal. Two of the attempts were directly in front of the goal.
“I felt like we fought till the end,” Nave said. “It’s a hump we have to get over.”
He wants to see his players put a bad break behind them quicker and still keep their confidence up.
“We have to find a way to make those and not work against us,” the coach said.
He called the end of the season disappointing, especially since the Mustangs lost their last regular-season home game to Lake Travis.
“I felt like (the players) deserved more,” the coach said. “I felt like we had one more chance. (The bi-district game) gave us another chance to end our season at home with another win.”