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Eastside Eagles soccer gearing up to take next step in 2024
EHS Soccer
Both Eastside soccer teams practicing ahead of the 2024 season. - photo by Garrett Pitts

After a 2023 season that saw the Lady Eagles make the playoffs and the Eastside boys team just miss out, both teams look to build upon last year’s result.

The Eastside boys team is going into its second season with head coach Anthony Williams.

In his first year at the helm, Williams led the Eagles to a 6-9-1 record with a 1-5 finish in Region 8-AAAAA.

Now set up for his second season, Williams spoke about the turnout that the team had early in the offseason.

“It [the offseason] has been going good. We had really good numbers going out to conditioning. A lot of our guys have been on travel teams so they have been active,” Williams said. “We had about 60 people come out to tryouts so it was very competitive, as far as finding out who was on the team.”

The Eagles will be going into the season without their three senior starters in 2023 that consisted of Eli Caid, Jesus Majia and Jace Shirah.

With the added influx of youth, Williams knew exactly what kind of growth he wanted to see from his team.

“Maturity level,” Williams said. “We had three seniors on the field last year so we had a lot of young guys. There were some games where we joked around too much, but this year they have been looking to be more serious.”

Replacing the three senior leaders is another trio of captains that include seniors Ethan Manley and Gabe Guerrero along with junior Benjamin Weaver.

For Manley, the depth of the team from top to bottom is what believes to be one of their strengths in 2024.

“The offseason has been good. We have been conditioning and doing the normal [training],” Manley said. “We have a lot of good people. We are not missing out on anything, our starting 11 is really good, our depth is good.”

With the eyes set on taking the jump to the state playoffs, Williams wants to ensure his team maintains its focus on the little things.“[We will] definitely use our pace and just being able to hold possession [to our advantage],” Williams said. “Communicating better. I tell them all the time, ‘Little things make the big things happen.’”

The Lady Eagles are coming off a playoff season, but will enter the 2024 campaign with a new coach.

Head coach Morgan Turner — also known as “Coach Moe” — took over an Eastside team that went 8-7-3 last season along with a trip to the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

Ensuring the team was in shape and fully prepared for the season was one of Turner’s main priorities.

“I was excited and looking forward to [coaching the Lady Eagles],” Turner said. “We were just trying to get the girls back in shape, for the ones that played [last year]. We encouraged those who did not play club to play club. We have three girls who are committed already, we are looking forward to it.”

At the beginning of the offseason, Turner knew what she wanted the team to work on in order to get back to the playoffs.

“Going into it [the offseason], it was their touches, communication and just getting stronger,” Turner said. 

Though this will be her first year as Eastside’s head coach, Turner is well familiar with her Lady Eagles squad.

“I am looking forward to having the chemistry of this team come together full circle,” Turner said. “I’ve coached these girls since their 8th grade year, and there are nine seniors that have played together that long so the chemistry we have is strong.”

The three captains for Turner’s team are seniors Sophia Leal, Mia Mostek and Nelia Dailey.

For Leal, the large senior presence will benefit the Lady Eagles the most. 

“We have all been together for a long time,” Leal said. “Especially the seniors, we have a big senior class with nine of us. Most of us have played together since eighth grade. I would say our bond [is our strength].”

With a vast number of seniors, Turner wants to make sure the team stays focused in their final year in order to have a strong finish.

“For the most part, we are an older team,” Turner said. “I want them to focus on utilizing the players we have this year and not worrying about who we are going to lose next year. [I want them] to play through it until the end and make sure it counts.”

Both Eastside squads open their seasons at home against Morgan County on Monday, Feb. 5.