Mansfield’s girls soccer team lost just two games this season, but the timing of where a loss lands can be crucial.
Lake Ridge picked up only its fifth loss, but the outcome was the same.
Such it is, the Lady Tigers end the soccer season at 22-2-1, after a disappointing 1-0 loss to Coppell last week in the Class 5A Region I Area Round playoffs.
Lake Ridge went into overtime before losing 2-1 to Kennedale and closed the season at 19-5-1.
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For Mansfield, the high expectations for a state appearance came crashing down.
With about five minutes into the second half, Coppell scored the only and deciding goal, which put an end to an otherwise stellar season for Mansfield.
Going into the game, Mansfield head coach Jay Zeller said they had a good game plan.
“It worked other than the fact we didn’t get a goal,” he said. “It speaks to how good Coppell is. We had plenty of opportunities but they just didn’t go our way. Other than the fact we would’ve liked to have won, we can hold our head high knowing that we battled.”
It was the little things that make the difference in a close contest, Zeller acknowledged.
“It’s a brutal game of inches,” Zeller said. “Their goalkeeper came up big in the first half. There were three shots that are less than inches away,” he said of Lady Tigers’ shots that just missed.
“A bounce here or there could have been the difference in the game,” he said.
The difficult aspect of the season may be in the ability to reflect on the success.
“I think along the way, the little things may go unnoticed,” Zeller said. “But we appreciate the talent and character of the kids. Win or lose, they fought hard.
“You don’t sting together 22 wins and not notice you’re doing something right,” Zeller said.
The body of work by the Lady Tigers over the last four years marks a resurgence of Mansfield soccer to the upper echelon of area soccer programs.
“There’s always been a lot of respect for programs in the north (area), but Mansfield soccer is now among those talked about,” Zeller said. “It goes straight back to the quality of players and their dedication to get us there.”
The seniors at Mansfield have left a legacy to continue and Zeller feels the younger players in the area will be able to fill such big shoes.
Although the legacy is just being built at the second-year varsity program at Lake Ridge, the trajectory is steep.
Last year’s Lady Eagles notched just three district wins.
While disappointing, the loss to Kennedale in the Class 4A area-round game can only be a stepping stone for Lake Ridge.
The game went scoreless into overtime. Kennedale scored two goals in the first 10-minute extra period.
With about two minutes remaining in the second 10-minute period, Lake Ridge pushed through its only goal.
“We didn’t have a lot of time after we scored,” said Lake Ridge head coach Kim Wallace. “We’re glad we got that one in. We kept fighting and showed a lot about our character.”
It wasn’t how the Lady Eagles wanted to end the season, knowing next year will be a whole new experience in the revamped 5A classification.
“It was a good season, but not like I would’ve like to have it end. We’ll come back next season,” Wallace said.
Lake Ridge will be in a nine-team district next year, with all but Mansfield being in the new alignment in 15-5A.
“I’m happy for the girls,” Wallace said, noting she’s never seen such an amicable group of girls in soccer and the chemistry is evident on the field. “They get along well and just generally play well together. It makes my job easier.”
“We’ll continue to build on the foundation,” Wallace said of the Lake Ridge program. “I’m very proud and very hopeful.”