Already with the District 8-6A title in tow, the Mansfield girls soccer team last week accomplished something else it did not last season – win a playoff game.
Despite dominating possession and scoring chances, the Lady Tigers found themselves precariously ahead 1-0 until adding goals in the 65th and 77th minutes to secure a 3-1 bi-district victory over Colleyville Heritage last Friday at Mustang-Panther Stadium in Grapevine.
“We feel great about the win. The girls battled hard,” coach George Velten said.
Mansfield took the lead just 12 minutes in when Natalie Gibbs found a loose ball about 15 yards from goal and punched it into the left side of the net. The Tigers mustered four shots at goal in a first half that featured few quality chances for either side.
“Our talk at halftime was focused around our effort and our style of play,” Velten said. “I don’t think we pieced together five passes in the first half. That’s usually what we do, we keep the ball and try to move it around really well. We weren’t doing that.”
Mansfield took control of the game in the second half with almost immediate pressure. The Lady Tigers ended the second half with more than a dozen shots, including seven on goal, and at least a half-dozen corner kicks. Twice, Mansfield hit the left post.
Still, more than an hour into the game, the Lady Tigers were dangerously only a goal ahead. That was until Paige Rotto fired home from about 16 yards out to the left of goal to give Mansfield the cushion they wanted, and rightfully earned.
Velten said it was reminiscent of recent games in which they’ve been in control but not put chances away.
“We’ve been the dominant team, but just not scoring the goals,” he said.
Twelve minutes after Rotto’s goal, Julie Shahi made it 3-0 and Mansfield could see the area round.
Heritage did manage a goal with under two minutes remaining for the 3-1 scoreline.
Mansfield next faces Plano, which was a bit of a surprise winner over Keller in the bi-district matchup of those schools.
“Plano is going to be a really tough team, but anybody from this point on is going to be a tough team,” Velten said. “We’re just going to have to get back to the drawing board and play some better football.
“If you’re fourth place in that district, you’re probably first place in most districts,” he added, commenting on how challenging teams from 6-6A will be.
Mansfield did face 6-6A champion Allen early in the season, a game the Lady Tigers lost 4-1.
Defensively against Heritage the Lady Tigers were solid through the middle with a trio of centerbacks – freshman Rachel Downey, junior Avery Underwood and sophomore Kate Holland – allowing the Lady Panthers very little room all night long. That group will be tested against Plano.
“They step up really well,” Velten said of his back line. “They push the pressure forward and allow our midfielders to push forward.”
It’s been since 2013 that Mansfield has reached the regional quarterfinals, but Velten feels they can get there with a few improvements on Friday’s performance.
“We’re just going to have to get back to moving the ball a little more quickly and scoring some goals,” he said. “We’re going to have to come with our A-game and tuck away our chances.”