In 2014, ESD won its first SPC girls soccer title in 14 years with a lineup that included five freshmen. Ninth-graders scored four of the five goals for the Eagles in the championship game.
Flash forward three years, and those freshmen are now seniors, and they’re still in the starting lineup for ESD, which has since added two more SPC crowns to its resume.
That quintet of newcomers now are seasoned veterans, determined to cap their high school careers with a run of postseason perfection unequaled in school history.
So head coach Mike Renshaw is quick to acknowledge that the team’s winning ways have less to do with tactics than with talent. After he saw his current seniors dominate their middle-school league a few years back, he was confident enough to tell them they would unseat Hockaday atop the SPC as freshmen.
“At first, they thought I was nuts,” Renshaw said. “I think now they’ve learned to trust my judgment.”
The players, meanwhile, credit a large part of their success to Renshaw, who was hired as the ESD middle school coach before being promoted to the varsity job five years ago. The 68-year-old British native was a player and coach for the Dallas Tornado for more than a decade and has been influential in the growth of soccer in the area ever since.
“I’ve just never seen someone be that confident,” said Sarah McGinn, who was one of the five players who listened to Renshaw’s bold prognostication in 2014. “It set the tone for the season.”
That year, the Eagles validated their eccentric coach’s pronouncement during a hard-fought 1-0 win in the SPC semifinals against rival Hockaday, who was the defending champion. It was ESD’s first win over Hockaday in eight years. The Eagles went on to defeat The Woodlands John Cooper 5-0 in the finals.
During the past three seasons, ESD has won its nine SPC tournament games by a combined score of 29-1 despite a physically demanding format that requires teams to play three games in about 36 hours. This year’s tournament is slated for Feb. 9-11 in Houston.
“That group grew up together,” Renshaw said. “The girls know I have a lot of belief in them. The standards are high and the expectations are high, and they’ve embraced that.”
McGinn and her classmates — Ellis Miller, Katie Witte, Elizabeth Reid, and Julia Eller — have continued to thrive in Renshaw’s possession-based system this season, even after losing a strong senior class from a year ago to graduation. Miller has verbally committed to Colgate and is within striking distance of the school record for career goals.
“Expectations get higher and higher every year,” McGinn said. “The girls above us left such a legacy, and it’s important for us to continue that legacy and pass it down to the next group.”
The Eagles will have targets on their backs again this winter, but the seniors are more determined than ever to make history.
“If we get second, that won’t do it,” Eller said. “There’s no other option than getting first.”