If you think it’s been awhile since our local high school soccer teams played a game, you’re correct. That’s because Anna and Melissa — and the rest of District 5-4A — receive byes in the first round of the playoffs due to their district mate, 6-4A, having no teams. This, of course, has its pluses and minuses — the former being lots of time to prepare, focus and rest-up; the latter being what a long, real-game layoff might do a team’s intensity and other intangibles. Depending on individual schedules, when Melissa and Anna squads start post-season play this week they will have been real-game idle anywhere from 10 to 18 days.


But that’s all behind them now. The area-round is upon us — and only one thing matters: winning your next 80 minutes of soccer and surviving to kick again. Let’s see what the coaches have to say about their teams at this point and get a feel for their post-season mindsets. Their comments are presented below in Q&A format.


Anna Lady Coyotes


Head coach: Scott Turner


Season record: 2-6 / 5-13-1, fourth seed in district


Area-round opponent: FW Diamond Hill-Jarvis


When: 6 p.m., Friday, March 31


Where: Denton ISD Stadium, Denton High campus


What about that bye week?


“It does give us time to prepare for the next opponent. We have more time to address things in practice, so it gives us an extended period of preparation. You certainly want to have games closer if you can, but to get a bye is a good thing. … It also gives you a chance to rest some players you might have, if there are any injury issues, or just mentally to refresh yourself and get ready for your next opponent. … We plan to go at game-speed and intensity when the whistle blows in that first game. Sometimes when you have been away, there is a little bit of adjustment where you adapt and get that back. … You certainly address some of the game situations and scenarios (in practice). There may be special restarts that we are working on. … We also want to make sure we are prepared for anything that might be thrown at us, whether it’s an unusual call and we have to adjust quickly. There are a lot of things, but you just want your players to be alert, to think fast and play fast.”


What are your team strengths at the moment, things with which you’re most pleased?


“I think I am most pleased with our possession and our speed of play. We are able to move the ball against very good teams. On the same side we are trying to increase that consistency. So I think we have improved on possession, maintaining possession and sequence of passing. That number has increased. Our speed of play seems to be a little faster. We are able to move the ball through teams and get offensive opportunities. But now our focus is to increase that consistency during the 80-minute match.”


“Our attitude is good, it’s positive. … We’re feeling good. We know we’re playing better. We didn’t play as well as we’d like in our last game, (a loss to Lebanon Trail), but there were some good moments where we were moving the ball and doing some good things. We’re just trying to take everything from our season … and have a good game when that referee blows the whistle to start the game.”


Who are players you’ll look to for leadership in the playoffs?


“Junior Alexi Schofield. She’s done well in the back for us but also in the mid-field area. Abby Cisneros has had fantastic progression, she has really come on well in the last half of the season. She hit a brilliant goal against Gainesville. (Junior) Emily Hanna had five goals in a recent match. Her effort is tremendous, and her work rate. We’re trying to get our team to all play that hard and with that intensity. Then Lauren Schlicht, in the back. She’s a sophomore this year and she, as our central defender, sometimes will move into midfield. She is capable of scoring goals. … We’re looking to get her involved in the offense when we can and (for her) to shoot the ball when she gets that opportunity. She’s very good at changing the point of attack, getting it on the one side of the field, then switching it to the opposite side. She’s also been a piston for us in terms of her work rate, always fighting and battling, always doing what needs to be done.”


What’s your goalkeeper situation?


“(Freshman) Kaitlyn Long has had a very good year, and (junior) Paige Brunson has done well. We’re lucky to have two goalkeepers that have some games behind them that they’ve learned from and they’ve grown from.”


What is one thing that can hurt a team in the playoffs if not addressed/corrected?


“(Not having) total focus on the next game. We want to be mentally fresh as well as physically. In the past, sometimes Dallas Cup or other club competitions overlap with high school playoff games. It is important to prevent this reality from having an adverse impact on the team.”


Melissa Cardinals


Head coach: Kelley Pitzer


Season record: 1-5 / 4-7-4, fourth-seed in district


Area-round opponent: FW Diamond Hill-Jarvis


When: 6 p.m., Thursday, March 30


Where: Northwest ISD Stadium, Justin, Texas


What about that bye week?


“You try to get a warm-up game, things like that, but it just didn’t work out with our schedule this year. That’s alright. We’ll be ready.”


What are your team strengths at the moment, things with which you’re most pleased?


“Probably what I’m most pleased with is just that they’ve come together as a group. They finally started clicking, approaching the end of the season. Once we got everybody healthy, things started picking up a little bit. But that lull in the middle where we had a bunch of injured players definitely hurt us. Overall strengths, I would have to say is probably the defensive line. They’re just working really well together. We’re not giving up a lot of goals this season, and that’s a plus.”


Who are players you’ll look to for leadership in the playoffs?


“Definitely (senior) Erasmo Paulin. He’s our center-back. He commands the field really well. (Senior) Elijah Mackey, because I can put Elijah kind of anywhere I want to put Elijah. If I need him as a central midfielder, if I need him as an outside mid, an outside back — I can put him anywhere. … (Junior) Dane Hansen is another one. He started out as an outside winger, now he’s an outside back. He knows how to play the position and his voice does a lot of good for us. … And, of course, Jose (Malpica). Jose’s our goal-scorer. He’s a difference-maker. … Honestly, I could name a bunch of kids but if they don’t all work in concert, it doesn’t work. I can point out kids that make a difference, but they all have to make a difference. It’s the playoffs.”


What is your goalkeeper situation?


“I feel really good about that. Josh (Love) was two-time goalkeeper of the year in our district, his freshman and sophomore year. And Nate (Smith) has really stepped in to be a quality back-up. That’s a big plus, something we haven’t had in the past.”


What is one thing that can hurt a team in the playoffs if not addressed/corrected?


“Lack of communication. If you’re not communicating with each other, it’s simple: You’re going to get beat. You have to communicate with each other, you have to understand your responsibilities, your teammates’ responsibilities. And that all comes from opening your mouth.”


Anna Coyotes


Head coach: Matt Ellis


Season record: 2-4 / 8-11-2, third seed in district


Area-round opponent: FW Castleberry


When: 8 p.m., Friday, March 31


Where: Denton ISD Stadium, Denton High campus


What about that bye week?


“It’s challenging just because you can train and you can practice and tell the kids, ‘Hey, we’re getting ready for a playoff game,’ but when they know they don’t play for 18 days, it’s difficult to keep every practice engaging. You’ve just got to kind of change it up, throw in maybe a day off here and there, or have a practice that’s more geared on the team-building aspect. I guess the words I would use are ‘light-hearted’ and ‘fun’ in nature — something that’s not so monotonous and as demanding. … But injury-wise, the layoff for that is great.”


What are your team strengths at the moment, things with which you’re most pleased?


“I think when we settle down and look to play within a team concept, look to move the ball a little bit more, pass the ball a little bit more within ourselves … we’re a dangerous team. I think when we get in the habit of on-the-ball dribbling too much we tend to struggle. But I also think that right now … we kind of have a better system. We moved a couple of players around and it’s helped us, defensively, be more secure. I like where we’re at right now, moving into playoffs. And I think it’s a huge advantage for us to be able to go scout that first-round game (last) Thursday.”


Who are players you’ll look to for leadership in the playoffs?


“I think our strongest leader is Miguel Jaramillo. He’s been the one consistent player, really, the last couple of years he’s been on the squad. And now, as a senior, he’s stepped up and has been a vocal leader and somebody that I look to as my assistant on the field. I’ve moved (sophomore) Isaac Nino around a bit and he’s really flourished in spots where I can give him a little bit more freedom. So whether I move him up-top or move him back in the mid-field, he’s really stepped up and helped link us and he’s been the really creative person on our team. (Sophomore) Carlos Garrido had his second 10-plus goal season this year. He’s stepped up, especially in the latter stages of district, and finished some important goals for us. I moved (junior) Kaleb Stewart into the defense three or four games ago. That’s really helped stabilize us, defensively. And it’s allowed me to put Jared Roberts outside, who’s really helped us on the attack when he’s an outside back instead of one of the center defenders.”


What’s your goalkeeper situation?


“We’ve played (junior) Javier Segura in there lately. He’s a foreign exchange student from Spain and has been in goal for the majority of the time recently. Jacob (Perez) has played in there too. They all have their strengths. Mitchell (Machart) is getting back from injury. I’m hoping he’ll be ready to go by (this) week’s game. I’m comfortable in the fact that I have several options there. … Right now I’d say Segura has kind of locked down that starting role for us.”


What is one thing that can hurt a team in the playoffs if not addressed/corrected?


“Lack of mental preparation. You can do all the tactical training, you can do all the technical training … but if those kids aren’t prepared and don’t fully comprehend that ‘one-and-done’ — and you give up an early goal and they’re mentally weak, thinking, ‘Oh, no, it’s over,’ I think you’re in trouble. … You win two games, you’re in the regional tournament, you’re in the final 16 left in the state. So I think just letting them understand the process that, yes, it’s long and drawn out, but really, you win two games you’re in the final 16. … As far as things that can hurt you if not corrected, I think making sure that they understand that no matter what happens in the opening first 15 minutes of a game, we have to adjust.”


Melissa Lady Cardinals


Head coach: Manuel Avila


Season record: 7-0-1 / 17-3-1, district champion/first seed


Area-round opponent: Alvarado


When: 8 p.m., Thursday, March 30


Where: Northwest ISD Stadium, Justin, Texas


What about that bye week?


“In my situation, honestly, it’s going to be, I hope, a blessing in disguise. We’re still dealing with injuries. Ultimately, we’re still trying to get healthy. So this year, of all years, it’s a blessing. I’ll say the bye we had going through Spring Break and finishing up district was a little tough. When we played Princeton (in a warm-up game) the other night, we felt a little rusty. … That bye hurt me more than the bye we have now.”


What are your team strengths at the moment, things with which you’re most pleased?


“The team has played well. I can’t speak to any one outstanding individual. There are girls that had good nights but as far as the team went this year, we had players filling in for each other, stepping up — kind of a next-man-up mentality — like with (New England Patriots coach) Bill Belichick. That’s always his philosophy. You don’t have to be the best player. You just have to do the job. I feel like this year has kind of been like that for us. … We still took care of the business that we needed to take care of with some of our key players missing.”


Who are players you’ll look to for leadership in the playoffs?


“A couple of players have impressed me as of late that are almost unsung players on the team. I can’t say, necessarily, leaders but they have stepped up to do a job that people don’t enjoy doing, but for the team it needed to be done. Specifically, one I would say would be Katie Brown. She’s a senior defender. … I needed her to take one of the better players on the other team and kind of take them out of the game — take that responsibility. And she stepped up and took that responsibility on, and didn’t complain and didn’t gripe. … Somebody else that has emerged for me, kind of on the outside, is (junior) Gillian Stopinski. I’ve really been impressed with her play lately. She’s worked hard and started to emerge as a top player for us. … She’s one of those, especially in Amanda (Kocsis’ injury) absence, who stepped up and took the role of the forward position and kind of held on to it. Last year, and in years past, she’s played midfield. That’s where she’s been.”


What’s your goalkeeper situation?


“(Sophomore starter Brittany Morgan is) playing fantastic. (Freshman) Jenna Daniel, she has played some club soccer and does play goalkeeper and would be a viable asset for us if we needed her to be. But that’s the last thing I need to worry about. I’ve got my defenders to worry about, my midfielders, that are all nursing injuries from this, that or the other.”


What is one thing that can hurt a team in the playoffs if not addressed/corrected?


“Complacency. We’ve had a couple of wins in years past where we felt like, ‘Oh, this is not going to be that much of a game,’ and we were able to kind of breeze through it. Looking at the standings this year and looking at the playoffs, we’ve eliminated some of those teams. There are some new teams that have come in this year that are going to be tough tests. And complacency is just one of those things – you can’t go in assuming that you’re going to win. … So we’re not going to be complacent. We’re going to be ready to play, from that first match all the way through the regional tournament and the state tournament, if we get there.”