Headed into the South Texas Youth Soccer Association’s state tournament December 14-15 in San Antonio, coaches for the Granite FC Cool Kicks girls select team didn’t spend a lot of time getting the players physically ready to play.
Cool Kicks head coach Ernesto Rivera said he and assistant coach Larry Wallace concentrated more on getting their players mentally ready to compete at the highest level, especially against Bulverde. Rivera, considered the opponent to “the team to beat.”
And it paid off. The Cool Kicks (9-0-2) tied Bulverde 1-1 in the championship and captured the state title based on team records at the tournament. The championship comes off the points the team earned in the title game as well as the matches leading up to it. The Cool Kicks earned 23 points to Bulverde’s 18.
“That team, we knew, was going to be hard to beat,” Rivera said.
The two teams had met a week earlier at the Western District tournament, where Bulverde prevailed 4-1. The loss meant the Cool Kicks entered the state tournament as the second seed.
The Cool Kicks warmed up for the state match by beating the Klein Cougars 5-1 and a Houston team 7-0.
Those two wins put the squad in the title game, where they faced Bulverde again.
Rivera, who has coached the team since it started in 2016, said coaches changed their strategy leading up to the championship game and emphasized to each player the importance of each one winning her individual battle against her counterpart.
“Bulverde was an intense game,” he said. “We are so proud of them and the effort they have put into this season. They are an amazing group of young ladies and athletes.”
To Rivera, this championship belongs to the community as much as it does to the team because of the support it received from businesses, families, and fans.
“Thing that motivates me to work with or coach these girls is that we have the opportunity to change their future by working with them in the present,” Rivera said. “Whether it be their skills in soccer or their character, we have the chance to help them grow to better young women.”