May 4—ENID, Okla. — The Plainsmen will be making history on Tuesday night at 7, when the team hosts Union in its first ever Class 6A State Tournament game at D. Bruce Selby Stadium.
Often overlooked among the 6A powers, Enid has been a surprise heading into the postseason after dropping just two games in the regular season. Both losses came on the road to Stillwater and both ended 1-0, with one coming in a penalty shootout in the championship game of the Stillwater Cup.
Union (9-5) won't be an easy draw for the Plainsmen, but Enid head coach Craig Liddell expects its home field advantage to be an important piece of the team's efforts on Tuesday night.
"It's been a big piece, we get the best crowds, I think, in high school soccer," Liddell said. "And that doesn't mean they're ridiculously huge, but they're loud and they're supportive and they're a good number."
Enid will be led by senior forward Luis Mendoza, who has been a game changer for the Plainsmen this season. With 13 goals in just 13 games this season, Mendoza has been a consistent threat for opposing defenses.
Although Mendoza is mostly known for finding a way to hit the big shot in the most important moments this season for the Plainsmen, Liddell said the most impressive thing about Mendoza is his selflessness.
When asked about the success he's had, Mendoza was quick to credit his teammates for the encouragement he's received this season, both when things go right and when they go wrong.
"For me I feel like it's my team that helps me a lot and motivates me during every game," Mendoza said. "One bad shot and they never bring me down, they lift my head up and that's a big part of it."
"He's being selfless and it's come back and given him the rewards which is very nice," Liddell said. "He'll be important tomorrow. He's healthy, he's sharp, he's feeling good, he's very nice on the ball, he finishes the ball well, it'll be good."
Despite his selflessness, Mendoza still has the confidence needed to take charge in important moments in the game, something he learned from his older brother, Joel Mendoza, who has scored his own fair share of goals for the Plainsmen as a former EHS soccer player.
Luis said his brother has been an inspiration for him as a soccer player and the two often share words before every game.
"Really he taught me just not to be cocky, but to be cocky in a good way," Luis said of Joel. "Just in terms of with the ball, you're better than the opposing team and he made me look for that, and it helped me get mentally prepared for games."
The Plainsmen play a possession-heavy style of soccer that relies on quick passes to keep the defense moving and adjusting. This typically forces the defense to get tired quicker, allowing Enid to find open gaps to exploit.
In the state tournament, the Plainsmen will be facing some of the stiffest competition they've faced all season with players that are both talented soccer players and natural athletes.
Union defeated Owasso twice this season 4-0 and 2-0 and lost several close games to some of the top teams in 6A such as Jenks (3-2), Broken Arrow (1-0) and Edmond Memorial (4-3).
"They're good, they're records not great and they're a fourth seed, but we've got a lot of respect for them, they play good soccer," Liddell said about Union. "It'll be a fantastic game because it's not just athletes who go hard it's the guys who play good soccer and they're athletic, it'll make for a great game tomorrow night."
Masri is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle.
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