The Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) Lady Pirate soccer team ended the 2019-20 season as district champions before their postseason was ultimately canceled by COVID-19.
RFHS Head Girl’s Soccer Coach Mitchell Lynch said the abrupt end to the season left the team in disbelief. The team had high hopes in making a strong run into the postseason. And with each day that passed as the country was placed into quarantine, the reality of making that postseason run faded.
“We went out on this big high, and then nothing … for quite awhile,” said Lynch.
RFHS never got to answer the question of, “What if?” And for three of RFHS’ starting seniors, winning a district title without playing a game in the postseason was the bittersweet hand dealt to them.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Lynch.
As for the 2020-21 season, the Lady Pirates have dealt with the complications of COVID-19 the most than any other RFHS varsity sports team.
Due to one or more members being exposed to or confirmed with COVID-19, the Lady Pirates have quarantined three separate times throughout the season. There was even a time early in the season when Lynch was quarantined, while the team continued play under assistant coach Warren Mitchell.
“It’s been a very unique year,” said Lynch. “I think it might be one of the biggest clichés in sports when people talk about overcoming adversity, but I think in this season we can point to some really specific moments.”
In February, RFHS played its first district game of the season after being held out of competition for three weeks. They were quarantined for two weeks, and then delayed another week due to the arctic freeze.
In that first game back Friday, Feb. 19, RFHS defeated Gonzales 6-0. Despite the shutout win, Lynch said his team was disappointed they didn’t play better.
“They walked off the field feeling disappointed,” said Lynch. “They knew they didn’t play at their best, but I think that’s a good testament to who we are. We want to be at our best all the time.”
Since finally starting their district season, RFHS is 5-1 and is tied with Beeville for first place in District 28-4A. The district also includes Gonzales, Calhoun, Palacios, and Yoakum.
Despite the adversity of their senior seasons, RFHS captains Danielle Dawkins and Naveya Davila said the chemistry this team shares with each other is all worth it.
“A lot of the girls on this team have been playing together since we were 6, 7 years old, so we just know how each other works,” said Davila. “It’s not all just about winning when we go out there, we’re all having so much fun. We look forward to going to practice, scrimmaging.”
“We’ve grown a lot together. We’re more of a family this year, and not as divisive as it has been,” said Dawkins.
Dawkins has been a starter on RFHS’ back line since she was a freshman and was the District’s Defensive MVP last season. She said the team has lofty goals, such as making it all the way to the state tournament.
“Coming off of last year, we were rolling. District champs, ready to start playoffs and go far,” said Dawkins. “Now, we’re ready to roll in the playoffs, and our goal is state champs.”
RFHS is currently ranked in the top 25 4A state poll at #24, according to MaxPreps.
Davila say’s their offense has been different this year. It has taken another step than where it has been in previous seasons.
“I’ve played two years my whole high school career cause I got hurt my freshman and junior year. And out of all four years, this team is the best (we’ve been),” said Davila. “We connect the best, we play the best, and everyone just wants to win so much more. They want it so bad.”
As a sophomore, Davila was named Overall MVP of the district in 30-4A.
The team consists of four seniors, eight juniors, and five sophomores.
Seniors are Davila, Dawkins, Caitlyn Ramaker and Rachel Baergen.
Dawkins, Ramaker, and Baergen make up three of RFHS’ four players on the back line.
Dawkins and Baergen man the middle while Ramaker starts at right back.
Lynch say’s Baergen’s pairing with Dawkins has been a big help for the two-year player.
“She’s making a huge impact in what we’re doing,” said Lynch.
Ramaker brings a strong, athletic presence on the outside with an added threat to push offensively.
“Very few people can run the way she can, have the strength, the control of the ball, and the ability to beat people 1v1,” said Lynch.
Davila controls the midfield with skill and precision alongside an electric playmaker in Riley Parker.
“The ability they have playing together, very few teams have that,” said Lynch. “I could coach the rest of my life and never have two center-mids play at that caliber.”
Juniors are Crystal Bueno, Brianna Contreras, Kaylie Skinner, Madison Duval, Ashley Wells, Lilith Solis, KJ Whidden, and Jordan Garza.
Lynch say’s Bueno is the teams most improved player from a year ago.
“She’s really firing on all cylinders for us,” said Lynch. “The improvement she’s made has shown up in the number of shutouts we’ve had. We only had one clean sheet last season. This year we’ve got four with quite a few games left to play.”
Duval has been splitting time at left back as Contreras returns to form from injury. Recently, Duval has been getting more involved up front as a winger.
Lynch say’s Skinner has been very effective in her time up front filling in for Duval.
“She’s really developing as a target forward and her distribution’s been getting really good there,” said Lynch.
Wells is a first year varsity player and has been working as a starting defensive mid.
“Wells is learning so quickly, just improving for us and is really helping to hold us down defensively,” said Lynch.
Solis, a First Team All-District player last season, recently returned to the team after a long basketball season. She’ll be working her way back into Wells’ spot.
Whidden has been an offensive powerhouse this season for RFHS. She’s recorded 22 goals, 20 assists, and four hat tricks.
“She’s such a high-powered offensive player for us,” said Lynch. “She’s scored in every game for us, if not it’s really close.”
Garza was moved up from the junior varsity and backs up Duval.
Sophomores are Parker, Kiley Kopp, Jessica Schibi, Sophia Byrom, and Suzanna Dawkins.
Parker tag teams with Davila to bolster the best midfield duo in the district. Lynch say’s she’s a sideline-to-sideline player that never stops moving.
“She’s the Energizer bunny of the midfield,” said Lynch. “Naveya and Riley complement each other very, very well. In the way that Riley’s all over the field, Naveya plays a much more structured position, and that really helps tie both of those things back in together.”
Kopp is a first year player on the varsity team and has been an immediate contributor on the offensive end as a winger. She currently leads the team in assists.
“She has unmatched speed, she can flat out fly,” said Lynch. “She’ll run the ball up the line, play crosses in, and KJ’s almost always there to finish it.”
S. Dawkins and Schibi back up Davila and Parker in the middle.
Byrom is a first year varsity player and backs up Ramaker at right back.
With three district games remaining, RFHS is in position to win the district, but not outright. After a 1-0 loss to Beeville, they are tied with Beeville for first place. Unless Beeville loses one of its final remaining district games, they will be co-champions of District 28-4A.
RFHS’ next game is 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 16 at Gonzales.