First-year Moore High School girls soccer head coach Clint Dellinger thought the Lions’ 2022 team, which posted seven wins and missed the Class 6A playoffs, underachieved.
“I taught here last year, so I got to see them play,” Dellinger said. “I knew we had a good group… Hopefully, with some luck, we’ll be in the playoffs.”
The Lions have been red-hot this year. They won seven games during an eight-game stretch in March and early April.
Dellinger heaps praise on his staff, which he loaded handsomely when he got the gig; Brooke Moore-Clark was a standout forward at UCO; Aubrey Robins-Highfill set MACU’s NAIA-era record with 50 career games played; and at USAO; Emma Rice was an NAIA All-American.
“They literally run this team,” Dellinger says. “The best decision I made as a coach was hiring those girls, and they’re all young. Our girls respect them, but they also know their ability and they follow what they do. I would put our assistant coaches up against any coaching in the district.”
Dellinger has also onboarded a promising freshman class, which includes five, sometimes six, starters on Moore’s team. Plugging younger talent in with his experienced players, like senior forward Amaia Stephens, a Northeastern State signee, has led to the Lions’ early success.
Stephens says this year is Moore’s window to compete for a title.
“We’ve always been so heavy on our seniors and juniors, like no freshman or sophomores would ever get much playing time,” Stephens says, “because we were so heavy set on upperclassmen. And now, I feel like it’s a good mix for us.”
Rylan McIntire, who recently spent a week in Argentina playing on the U.S. Junior national futsal team, leads the pack. Then there’s Avilee Becher, Maddie Crouch, Cydney Gray, Kristen Straughn and Lindsey Ewy, who each led successful youth careers before they ever donned a Moore kit.
“These girls have all played at the ECNL or ECRL level. Almost all of our freshmen are club players,” Dellinger says.
Surprisingly, Dellinger says the groups – the young and the old – never struggled to mesh.
“It was seamless,” Dellinger says. “We just lucked out, honestly. I’m blessed.”
“Most of the freshmen that we have came in and were actually pretty good on their own, so they didn’t really need an example to be led by, but I feel like the upperclassmen did a really good job by leading by examples,” Stephens says.
Dellinger credits players like Stephens and others, like Kynlea Lentz, for their examples.
“You’ll see [Lentz], when we do fit tests, she goes back and runs with the girls that are slower,” Dellinger says. “She just does the extra things, and almost all of our seniors do that.”
“I think we all came in with different styles,” McIntyre says, “and the upperclassmen were super welcoming. I think we just tried to fit in and work with them and figure out how each other plays so we can win as many games as possible.”
The seniors, McIntyre says, have made the game “fun” to connect with the rookies: “like jamming out to music at practice and having fun during games and our little prayer before games.
“You know, just having fun with it, and not putting so much pressure on ourselves,” McIntyre says.