Throughout this season, the Wakeland varsity boys soccer team dominated on the field; coming out on top as area champions, semifinal champions, and now state champions.
This wouldn’t be the first year the Wolverines advanced to the state championship. This year marked the fifth time the boys advanced to state, with two state championship wins from previous years on their record.
The journey to this year’s State Championship has been almost two years in the making.
“Two years ago, we lost in the state finals and last year we got the whole playoffs taken from us due to COVID. We all felt like we had to win this game to make up for the games we didn’t win and didn’t get to play. Our whole team motto was ‘Who’s Next?’, which basically meant who is going to step up and make the plays to win? We all wanted to do it as a team to win this game,” junior Nate Bowman said.
The Wolverines put in hours of practice and worked together as a team to accomplish their goal of winning state.
“The team prepared in a lot of ways. From daily practices and watching film, we have continued to put in that extra effort that sets us apart from all the other teams,” varsity player senior Landon Griffiths said.
The Wolverines didn’t need to only prepare themselves physically, but mentally as well.
“I’ve personally prepared by just making sure I’m engaged and keeping the team engaged in practice. I’ve also been preparing myself mentally before games with little things,” varsity player senior Jimmy Suerth said.
Throughout the season, the boys faced adversities such as injuries, tough calls made by referees, as well as the mental toll the season can have on its players.
“Definitely the grind of the season can be the most challenging part. You practice a lot and there’s a lot of games [to play] before we can get to our ultimate goal of winning a state championship,” varsity boys soccer coach Matthew Mullins said.
Advancing to the state championship wasn’t easy for the Wolverines, but they were able to face those challenges head on in order to accomplish their ultimate goal.
“There are always challenges you’re going to face in a game; calls that don’t go your way, a goal by the other team, momentum shifts. Our guys handled them well the whole game,” Mullins said.
On April 13, the Wolverines played Del Valle High School in Midland, Texas in the state semifinals. After a challenging game, the boys defeated Del Valle with a final score of 4-2, ultimately becoming semifinal champions and making their way to state.
With high spirits, the Wolverines made their way to Georgetown, Texas to play against Humble Kingwood Park High School to claim the title of state champions.
“The best parts [of the games] were the celebrations that would take place when a teammate would score a goal. When one guy scored, it was as if the whole team scored,” Mullins said.
Not only were the Wolverines and fans filled with excitement, but they were also feeling a hint of nervousness.
“I think everyone on the team, including the coaches and trainers, were nervous to play. Even our fans seemed nervous,” Bowman said.
On April 17, the Wolverines played against Kingwood Park to determine who would win the state championship.
The pressure was on as the Wolverines were playing a game that would either cause them to gain or lose everything they’ve worked and strived for this season.
“Playing in the biggest game in the state is truly terrifying because everything we did in the game mattered and everything was on the line. We had everything to lose that game, so we were all very nervous. The atmosphere was crazy and we didn’t want to disappoint the fans who drove hours to support us,” Bowman said.
Fans cheering as the clock counted down, the Wolverines pushed through their last final minutes of the season.
“Watching the clock count down those last few minutes was the most stressful time I’ve had probably ever. When the final second ticked away, we all stormed the field and dog piled [onto] our goalie. It was the best feeling ever. All the hard work we had put into the season and off season had finally paid off. We were all so happy to be the #1 team in the state. We were so proud of our team and I think we were all also relieved to have won such a close and important game,” Bowman said.
The Wolverines were able to finish out the season strong by defeating Kingwood Park with a final score of 3-2, crowning them as State Champions.
“[Winning state] was a great feeling, there’s nothing better than seeing your players celebrate an achievement that they have worked hard for all year,” Mullins said.
This marks Wakeland’s third state championship win within the past five years and its fourth title overall.