The River Oaks boys soccer team knows what it’s like to undergo a dramatic transformation. Then again, the Mustangs’ 9-1 turnaround happened so swiftly, members of the soccer team really haven’t had time to process just how different this season has been to the many seasons that came before.
The Mustangs went from a 7-6 2019 season to an undefeated district season and the No. 1 seed in Division III South in 2020.
“We’ve just been holding each other accountable at practice and expecting the best out of them during the games, and the rest sort of falls into place,” River Oaks head coach Chris Fuller said. “You also have to get lucky now an then too…”
The Mustangs dropped down from Division II to Division III without losing a single player from last year’s squad. And that’s where some of that luck comes into play. Still, River Oaks has put in the hard work to be able to overcome crucial injuries throughout the course of the season like senior J.D. Roberson’s shoulder and Lance Fuller rebounding from getting his appendix removed.
“When you change the mindset from just going out and playing to really trying to win each game that really makes a difference,” said Chris Fuller about his second season as the Mustangs head coach. “When you start winning, that’s sort of contagious.”
The Mustangs have six seniors on the squad, as Chandler Smith, Taylor McHugh, Clay Simonton, Sam Herrington and Sam Conti join Roberson as the team’s vets. Danny Saye, Nick Parrino, Miguel Gonzales and Smith have led the team offensively, while Ousman Amadou and Conti have been standouts as defenders.
The playoffs will begin Feb. 17, as River Oaks is just three wins away from claiming an MAIS Division III Championship. The Mustangs will host their first two playoff games before hopefully playing in the state championship game in Jackson.