Kerberos making plans to compete
KIPP Academy is new to University Interscholastic League competition and District 44-4A girls soccer, but the Kerberos haven't been overwhelmed by the occasion.
To the contrary, KIPP looks at ease in its new home, going 2-1-2 in its first five league games and looking very much like a playoff contender.
The Kerberos were in position to win their debut before settling for a 3-3 tie against Sharpstown.
"We had the lead until we gave up the tying goal with 10 seconds left," said KIPP head coach Elliott Witney. "That wasn't the start we had in mind."
KIPP bounced back with victories over Austin 3-1 and Yates 9-0 before tying Waltrip 1-1. The Kerberos also played Reagan, the league favorite, close in a 1-0 defeat.
Witney said District 44-4A is the right fit for his players, most of who hail from Houston's inner city.
"We're a charter school and our students are selected by lottery, but many of our players would attend the schools in our district, like Austin and Lee," Witney said. "They've known the other girls since they were in youth soccer. Some of the teachers attended these schools, so they're loyalties are divided. It's kind of fun."
KIPP's inclusion in District 44-4A has generated interest in the sport. Witney noted that the soccer program includes more than 40 girls on the varsity and junior varsity.
"I'd guess that between 10 and 20 percent of our female study body are involved in soccer," Witney said. "Soccer is, by far, our most popular girls' sport."
Junior captain Tania Espinosa is one of KIPP's standouts. Espinosa, a center midfielder, has tallied four assists to power the Kerberos' attack.
"Tania is our leader on the field," Witney said. "She coordinates everything and controls the pace of the game. Everything we do goes through her."
Junior Suzy Renteria is the other center midfielder, while junior captain Jenny Valle and freshman Elizabeth Annicchiarico start at left and right midfielder, respectively.
The forward rotation features juniors Marisol Arriaga (three goals, one assist) and Rosie Rivas (four goals) and sophomore Jennifer Lizama (two goals).
Jasmin Dominguez, a 6-foot junior, is a physical presence at the sweeper position. Dominguez anchors a unit that includes sophomore Irma Rubio at stopper and sophomore twins Andrea and Priscilla Larrea at the outside defender spots.
Senior Jessica Chavez and junior Lexie Avalos split time at goalkeeper, although Witney may settle on one starter during the second round of league play.
Adding depth are freshman Nancy Garzon at midfielder, junior Stephanie Oropeza at midfielder/defender and juniors Caroline Caballero and Saida Sarmiento and sophomore Josselin Joya at defender.
After playing an independent schedule against the likes of St. Agnes, Duchesne, Kinkaid and St. John's, Witney said it's exciting to have the opportunity to compete for a district title or playoff appearance.
"We're still a relatively new school. The high school has been around for a few years," Witney said. "We're just getting started. To make the playoffs in our first (UIL) season would be a major accomplishment."
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