By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
Two young people with local ties helped their Texas high school teams win state championships last month on the big stage of Texas prep soccer. The Natchitoches Parish Journal is featuring both – Maddox Thomas of boys’ Class 5A champion Frisco Lone Star High School, and Erin Hebert, the rookie head coach of the girls’ Class 6A surprise champion, Flower Mound Marcus High School.
After focusing on Thomas, a standout player, last Thursday, we spotlight Hebert today. Her local ties are far-reaching, as she has many friends from her visits to Natchitoches. She is the granddaughter of the late Raymond Arthur and Elizabeth “Nonie” Arthur, and she is the daughter of Natchitoches native Susan Arthur, an attorney like her dad, living in the Dallas metroplex.
Susan and Erin made many visits here and still come to spend time with their beloved “Nonie.”
Some of the trips during Erin’s formative years were made so she could participate in NSU Lady Demon soccer camps as a girl.
“I went to the NSU soccer camp every summer when I was a kid, and two summers when I came in, they did a British soccer camp with guys from England,” said the 28-year-old lifelong Texan. “I loved coming to Natchitoches every summer and made a lot of friends through those camps that I still talk with today.”
She graduated from Marcus High in 2013, then earned a bachelor’s in education and a master’s in educational leadership, both from Texas A&M. Her career path was set during her teenage years.
“I come from a family full of educators (Nonie was a longtime Natchitoches Central teacher), so I knew early on in high school that’s what I wanted to do. I went back and forth between being a lawyer like my mom and my grandpa,” said Hebert. “In high school, I got to do mentoring programs and work with some younger soccer players that made me know that was the trajectory I wanted to follow.”
She came home to DFW and was hired by the Marcus Independent School District to teach English and coach in middle school. She eventually moved up to the same roles at Marcus High, assisting a veteran coach with a strong program in one of the state’s toughest districts. This year’s state championship was the school’s first, but it was the seventh state tournament appearance. In each of the last two seasons, Marcus reached the Region 1 (DFW area) final and lost to the eventual state champion.
The 2023 team was expected to be competitive, but nobody saw what was coming. Especially after the veteran head coach left for another job – the day before the first game. Hebert was quickly named interim head coach.
“I got called into my principal’s office and he told me he had all of the confidence in the world I could take over the program and do a great job this year,” she remembered. “A lot of people thought this was going to be a rebuilding year, including the coach that left. We graduated 11 seniors last year, and we had a lot of new, younger players.
“It was a pleasant surprise to see how well they bonded and how well they meshed on the field. I didn’t see that coming, but as the season progressed and we practiced and worked together, they developed a bond that was super special,” said Hebert.
She had seven seniors – four who were in her very first class of seventh-grade English students. But losing the head coach was the second big blow to the 2023 outlook. The team’s leading goal scorer in 2022, a senior on this year’s team, tore an ACL in her knee three weeks before the season began and was lost for the spring.
So, how did the team handle the adversity of losing its best goal producer, then its head coach, and being led by a young, interim coach?
The Mauraders went 26-1-1 and charged to the Texas 6A championship. Their only loss was early in district play, and even that worked out for the best.
“It was really good for the girls. We played in tournaments around the state and were winning 5, 6, 7-0. That loss kind of humbled us, but then we went on an 18-game winning streak.”
With its consistent playoff success, the Marcus team was determined to succeed in the postseason, but thoughts of winning state were still beyond imagination. Not, however, for their interim coach.
“I felt that way all season. I know the girls thought I was crazy,” she said. “I told them before the first playoff game we could win the whole thing, but we all knew we had to get past Southlake Carroll.”
As in national high school powerhouse Southlake Carroll, a program that has multiple national team players on its roster most seasons, including this spring. But in the state quarterfinals, Marcus scored a 1-0 victory.
“That was one of the best games, if not the best, we played all year,” said Hebert.
It was off to the state tournament in Georgetown, and glory awaited. First came an impressive 4-0 semifinal victory over Round Rock Westwood from the Austin area. Hebert’s coaching paid off.
“Their defensive style, when we played teams earlier in the season that mimicked that, it was really hard for us to score. That week leading up to the state tournament, we worked on offense through a super-compact and high-numbered defense,” she said. “The girls were just the right amount of confident and nervous, and they took care of business.”
The state championship game the following day (Saturday, April 15) pitted Marcus against Fort Benning Ridgepoint.
“The wind was super crazy. In the first half, we defended it, going against the wind, and after we made it to halftime, I knew we were going to be just fine. The ball was naturally going to stay in our attacking half of the field.
“We got a goal pretty early, scored another on a penalty kick, and we walked off state champions,” she said.
Then things got even better.
Sunday evening as she was getting ready to teach her junior English classes Monday, and her principal texted and “asked me to meet at the athletic office Monday at 9. I thought, this is either going to be really good, or not so good.
“It was really awesome when I walked in, and they (the principal and the athletic director) had big smiles on their faces. They just expressed how proud they were of everything that happened this season, not only the state championship. I did a lot of bringing the community into our soccer games and around our team, which made things a lot more special for everybody, the girls, their parents, and the community surrounding the school.”
She was no longer the interim head coach. She had earned the job for good.
“They had gotten approval so they didn’t have to interview or post the position because they said they knew who they wanted. It was the greatest day,” she said. “I am super happy.”
Her first Marcus team finished not only with the Texas 6A title but a national No. 3 ranking.
Incredibly, Erin’s fabulous year has yet another milestone ahead, the biggest yet. On July 1, she’s getting married.