GRAPEVINE, Texas – Two years ago, senior Michael Nolan sat in Mr. Michael Beeson’s sophomore Bible class and said that he thought it would be possible for Grapevine Faith to win a state championship in men’s soccer four years in a row. Now the feat has been accomplished. The Lions claimed their fourth straight title on March 8 with a 2-1 victory over Houston Awty International–the same school that they beat in the finals last year.
“We jumped ahead super fast – almost alarmingly fast — which made us play really at ease. Which is good,” assistant coach Todd Pipes said. “Suddenly it was like, ‘We can score on these guys when we needed to.’” After last year’s loss, Awty brought in some new players with the specific goal of winning a title in their final year in TAPPS 4A. “They were trying to set it up for this big win, and our guys came in there and scored two goals in the first eight minutes and about blew them away,” Coach Pipes said, “You could see that they utterly panicked.”
The Lions had control from the start of the game and never let up. “We didn’t score as many goals as I thought we would because of wild shots and stuff, but we kept it on their end of the field,” Coach Pipes said. He credited the team’s ease and success to their challenges earlier in the year saying, “[head coach] Matt [McKinney] made an incredibly hard schedule.”
The team headed to Houston with one goal on their minds. The bus rides were “utterly silent.” Coach Pipes said, “There was never any time this year where [the players] were saying, ‘Oh, we’re for sure going to do this thing.’ They wanted to do it, but they never had the attitude that it was a gimme – never.” However, as the final game got under way, the coaches mindset started to shift. “I don’t think there was any time in the game when any of the coaches didn’t think, ‘We’ve got this,’” he said. “In some years past it’s felt like we hit our peak a little early.” Those teams have been worn down when the time for the championship comes. “This year, everyone, emotionally, was peaking at the state tournament. The excitement was building. That was the big difference this year.”
After last year’s third title, many fans and students thought the team was assured a fourth victory, but Coach Pipes said he didn’t start feeling that way until they won the Grapevine-Richland Winter Blast tournament against multiple UIL 5A schools such as Southlake Carroll, Richland, and Keller. “It was gonna take some fluky miracle, which can happen, but it was gonna take something bizarre to keep it from happening,” he said.
This year’s senior class has been an integral part of each championship run. “They’ve stuck together,” Coach Pipes said, “I remember when these guys were in junior high.” The seniors have fully devoted themselves to this team, and it has paid off. “They came in freshman year, and I remember seeing how many of them there were and thinking, ‘This is going to have a significant impact,” he said. The players all show up at practice 30 minutes early to start shooting, and most go to club practices afterwards. Coach Pipes said it got so bad that, “we’re saying, ‘Stop showing up so early,’ because they disrupt the junior high practice.”
Many of the players will play two or three games in a weekend in addition to their school games. “That’s why they’ll come to school on some Mondays and you can see that they can barely walk,” Coach Pipes said. “They’re doubling up on everything. They’re giving everything that their bodies can physically take, but they love the sport.”
The Lions are already looking towards next year with high expectations. Coach Pipes expects to go fairly deep into the playoffs again. “The second year when these guys were sophomores was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and we turned right around and won a state championship.” The JV players have been working to replace the varsity team’s losses, and the freshman class will be strong. “It’ll be a young team, but we’re going to be very good,” Coach Pipes said. “You’ve got to remember we haven’t lost a junior high game in four years and you’re playing the same kids.”
New national and state soccer rankings recently put the Lions at second in the state and 39th nationally. “It’s a little bit of overkill for TAPPS. Even if you’re the size of Awty, and they’re much bigger than we are, it’s crazy,” Coach Pipes said. The only Texas team ranked higher than Faith is Coppell High School. Four straight titles is a remarkable feat. “It’s unbelievable, just to be able to pull it off,” Coach Pipes said.
To see this article as it originally appeared in the Grapevine Faith RAWR, click here.