MHS soccer teams ready for 2021 despite pandemic

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian's Nick Arenare possesses the ball during a 2020 match against Ennis. Arenare, who was the football team's placekicker this fall, is one of the leading returnees for the Panthers in 2021.

The Midlothian High School boys and girls soccer teams were left wondering what could have been at the end of the 2020 season.

The Lady Panthers ended the regular season ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 5A, and clinched the District 14-5A championship on March 6 with an 8-0 rout of Corsicana at the Roesler Athletic Complex. Little did they know that this would be their final match of the season, as the University Interscholastic League ordered a halt to all extracurricular activities on March 13.

The MHS boys, meanwhile, had also clinched a playoff berth, and were looking forward to a postseason run when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic dashed their dreams.

Even though the pandemic is still raging, the 2021 soccer season will proceed as scheduled as stringent measures have been put into place to mitigate the spread of the virus. Head coach Austin Guest, the guardian of the press box at MISD Multipurpose Stadium during football season, is a stickler for COVID protocols.

With a few scrimmages already under their belts, the Lady Panthers, who were 17-1-2 overall and a perfect 11-0 in district, will open the 2021 regular season with a tournament Jan. 7-9 at Highland Park. They will take on McKinney Boyd on Jan. 7, Highland Park on Jan. 8 and Rockwall on Jan. 9. All three matches will kick off at 1:30 p.m.

The Lady Panthers will also play in a tournament in Aledo Jan. 14-16 and in Grapevine Jan. 21-23. A standalone non-district game has also been scheduled for Jan. 11 at MISD Multipurpose Stadium against Bryan Rudder and will be Senior Night for the team.

MHS lost 13 graduating seniors from last year’s team, including leading scorer Kaleigh Naizer, who netted 15 goals in 2020. But returning for the Lady Panthers are senior Mariah Griffin, whose eight goals last year were second on the team, as well as seniors Abby Powers and Allyson Gibbs, junior Eunique Wright and sophomores Emma Best and Taylor Thibodeau.

Meanwhile, Guest’s Panther boys will similarly open the 2021 season on Jan. 7 with the first of three scheduled games at Highland Park. The Panthers (9-5-7, 6-1-4 in 2020) will open against Dallas Conrad at 3:20 p.m. on Jan. 7, followed by a contest against Dallas Adamson at 7 p.m. on Jan. 8 and a 3:20 p.m. match against Richardson High on Jan. 9.

The Panthers will also play in a tournament in Aledo Jan. 14-16 and in Grapevine Jan. 21-23. A non-district Senior Night match has also been slated for Jan. 12 at MISD Multipurpose Stadium against Arlington Lamar.

MHS was hit hard by graduation, with 12 seniors departing from last year’s squad. Seniors Nick Arenare and Ryan Tate, and junior Nathan Wagner are the top field returnees, with senior Zeke Compton and junior Caden Hyndman returning in goal.

District 14-5A play will begin for both the Panthers and Lady Panthers on Jan. 26 at home against Ennis.

Both the Panthers and Lady Panthers are ranked No. 9 in their respective groupings in Class 5A Region II by the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches in its 2021 preseason poll.