Rodriguez has Texans toughened for long haul to State tournament
After a state semifinal loss two years ago, Sam Houston returns to Georgetown this weekend hoping to make amends
Sam Houston boys soccer coach Joey Rodriguez knew that playing in District 4-6A would be hard this year, but somewhere down the line, it would be worth it.
"We played in one of the toughest districts in the state," Rodriguez said. "All of the kids in this district know each other, either in these games or in club games. Games like these helped us to grow as a group, and showed us we could compete."
The payoff came last week.
The Texans (21-2-2) captured the Region I title with victories over Lewisville and Hebron, and are now headed to the State tournament in Georgetown, where they will play Pasadena Dobie at 5 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals.
The biggest thing Sam Houston has going for them is having four players on the team who went to the State tournament two years ago, compiling a 20-3-1 record, but dropping a 2-1 decision to Katy Cinco Ranch in the semifinals.
It gave Rodriguez something to tell his players on what to expect this week.
"I told them to continue to play with passion and heart," he said. "They need to fight through the adversity and enjoy the experience."
The discipline that Rodriguez installed in his team has paid dividends all season and made believers out of his players.
"[Rodriguez] makes us work hard and push to be better," senior Mario Trevizo, the team's center back, said. "He's always reminding us of what it takes."
Rodriguez plied his trade at Abilene Wylie, San Angelo Central and Justin Northwest before coming to Sam Houston, and has had a fair amount of success everywhere he's been.
He believes success is a mixture of luck and discipline.
"You never really know what can propel your players," Rodriguez said. "We have an off-season program where they have running and lifting, and it made themselves stronger. It's hard work, but it helps win games."
Sam Houston fell behind in both games of the regional tournament last week, but Rodriguez insisted he never worried about his team panicking.
"It goes back to playing in a tough district," he said. "In our district, we fell behind Bowie and Lamar, so we were prepared for the moment."
Another factor in the team's success is their unorthidox 3-5-2 formation, designed to smother an opponent's attack with five midfielders, which would either stop advances, or at least slow them down.
Rodriguez says it suits his team well. Not many teams play a 3-5-2 formation, so it's an adjustment for them.
On a team where everyone chips in, one of the biggest contributions has come from a freshman, Jose Ortiz, who has set a school record with 30 goals this season.
"He showed up as a freshman and outworked everyone," Rodriguez said. "He's the type of player who has a knack for the goal. He's proved he can play."
Rodriguez admitted his team will have its hands full with Dobie, which sports a 20-2-4 record on the season.
"They are extremely skilled and have no weaknesses," he said. "They've got all-around good skills and are good in one-on-one situations."
In addition to the four players who played in the state tournament two years ago, many other members of the team were watching from the stands.
They'll get their turn to show what they can do this weekend.
"This group takes a lot of pride in their game," Rodriguez said. "They want to continue our playoff tradition."