Since Lennard High opened in 2006, its boys soccer team had always been competitive. The Longhorns usually won between seven to nine games a season. Last year, even after a program-best 11 wins, they were still unable to advance to the state playoffs.
But this year, things appear to be different. Currently 8-0-5, the Longhorns have finished tied with Jesuit for the No. 1 seed in their nine-team district. The two teams played each other earlier in the season and finished in a 1-1 draw. Mark Robinson, who has been the head coach at Lennard since the school opened, said that game was key in laying the groundwork for the rest of the season.
"We played at Jesuit and I didn't know what I had going into the season. We came out knowing we could play with anyone this season," Robinson said.
Despite tying for the top seed – and hosting the district tournament – Robinson said he knows it won't be easy to emerge from the district tournament with teams like Jesuit, King, and Leto waiting in the wings.
"Anyone is going to have to go through Jesuit (to win the district)," he said. "They are an established program."
Lennard's style is a mixture of holding possession and at times taking a more defensive shape while looking for counter-attack opportunities.
"We have a ball-control offense and rely on quick players," Robinson said. "We are not big and physical. In the past it hurt us. It's something my kids have had to adjust to."
One of the other keys to Lennard's success has been the play of their defense. Led by junior defender Rene Garcia – one of the Longhorns captains – and junior goalkeeper Daniel Garron, Lennard has given up only eight goals on the season and, at one point, had five straight shutouts.
"Garcia sets the defense for us," Robinson said. "Garron played over the summer in a seven-on-seven league and it has really helped with his reflexes."
Lennard is also led by junior midfielders Kristopher Ospina and Emmanual Zamudio, who are co-captains along with Garcia.
"Ospina is like the quarterback for us," Robinson said. "Both him and Zamudio can play anywhere I want them to. They have been playing together for a while."
The district tournament begins Wednesday, and Lennard hopes to make some school history during it.
"Our first objective is to make the playoff round," Robinson said.