Girls Soccer

Mansfield Legacy’s goalie helps Broncos reach state after skipping junior season

Mansfield Legacy scored two goals in the first half to beat Burleson Centennial, 2-0, in the 5A Region I final on April 13. Senior goal keeper Tatum Krueger (pronounced Tat-um Kru-ee-ger), with help from the defense, earned her 20th shutout of the season.

It clinched the program’s first trip to the soccer state tournament, which takes place this week at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown where the Broncos (25-1-2) will play Dripping Springs (22-4-3) at noon on Thursday during the semifinals.

“It’s been a dream come true,” senior Ashley Perez said. “We’ve imagined this since the beginning of the season. It was goal we set, and for it to actually be happening, it’s breath-taking.”

But Legacy was nearly eliminated in the second round if not for Krueger’s play in penalty kicks.

Krueger made three saves during the shootout to move the Broncos past Birdville. That game started this stretch where Legacy hasn’t given up a goal in its past four contests.

She can partially thank the Developmental Academy.

Krueger missed her junior season because she played for DA, a top tier league formed by U.S. Soccer. It’s a way for high school soccer athletes to play tougher competition in hopes to land a college scholarship.

The rule was if you play DA, you couldn’t play in high school.

“It wasn’t my original plan to go straight to DA because I love my club coach and the skills he has taught me, but he got a coaching offer with the Dallas Texans DA and I wanted to stay with him so I tried out and was blessed enough to make it,” Krueger said. “But when I heard about the rule I was confused why I couldn’t play high school and was devastated, but it was a risk I wanted to take.

“I was pretty bummed out when I realized I wasn’t gonna be able to play my junior season not because of the soccer, but because I wasn’t able to play with my sisters. I’m super close with all the girls and the family bond we have is irreplaceable.”

Kruger wasn’t committed at the time, but expected to play against and alongside some of the top athletes in the country. This included Legacy teammate Kamryn Blevins and Aledo senior Brooke Jones.

“I’m so blessed God gave me the opportunity to be apart of that program and build new bonds with girls who are still my friends today,” she said. “I thank Ben Williams for getting me ready to play at the next level.”

While she got the experience she was looking for and a scholarship out of it, she signed with Sam Houston State in November, she was heartbroken to see Legacy come up short yet again in the 5A Region II tournament last season.

That’s when she knew she wanted to come back.

“Seeing those girls come up short from their goals last season was absolutely devastating to watch. I knew after seeing what happened to them last season I wanted to come back into the program and make an impact,” Krueger said. “Halfway through my DA season I knew I wanted to play my senior year. I wanted to experience senior night and one last ride with my team. I couldn’t be happier.”

“Of course we welcomed Tatum and Kamryn back to Legacy soccer. I know the girls were excited,” said Zachary Hallak, who’s in his second season as head coach. “It meant more depth and competition at positions. Our biggest concern was at goal keeper. Carina Chavarria did an amazing job as a freshman in goal at the varsity level. She only allowed eight goals in district play last year.

Mansfield Legacy senior Tatum Krueger will continue her career with Sam Houston State. Aidee Esquivel-Geist Courtesy

“I was curious to see how Tatum and Carina would respond to each other and I couldn’t be happier with the results. They’re both amazing goal keepers and push each other in practice. It has made them both better players and the team better as whole.”

Legacy has allowed nine goals all season long and is outscoring opponents 16-1 in the playoffs.

“Tatum comes into practice everyday ready to work. She is dedicated to getting better and making her team better,” Hallak said. “This has almost become a tradition starting with Kyleigh Hall, who now plays at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.”

Olivia Jackson and Brenna Scheffler scored against Centennial while Lilee Simpson got an assist during a corner attempt. Krueger, Lexi Luna and Ashley Perez are captains and the Broncos have stepped up since Blevins went down with an injury.

“This team doesn’t skip a beat. This group has a “next women up attitude” and they gladly stepped into roles they aren’t used to playing, but never complain,” Hallak said. “They’re truly a family on and off the field and support each other all along the way.”

If Legacy can win Thursday, it’ll play in the state championship game on Saturday.

The Broncos are also the first team from Mansfield ISD to reach the state tournament.

Legacy defeats Burleson Centennial 2-0 to win the 5A Region I final at Newsom Stadium, Saturday April 13, 2019. Brian Gosset

“The girls are very excited about breaking the so-called curse and very excited about going to state. They have been great about going into this with a business as usual mentality,” Hallak said. “This is part of what makes the girls so special. They are a very coachable group that’s fun to be around.”

“Breaking the curse is absolutely insane and I’m still trying to process it all. Coach Hallak has really got us prepared for this telling us “we are the storm” and the team took that and rolled with it,” Krueger added. “Being able to help lead this team to where we are now is a blessing and I couldn’t have done it by myself. This senior class is filled with leadership and dedication and it pours into the underclassman and I pray that they can continue that legacy.”

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Born and raised in Hawaii, Brian Gosset graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in journalism before coming to Texas in 2014. He’s covered high school sports — yes, pretty much every high school sport — for the Star-Telegram ever since.