Soccer season is over for a majority of teams, but the fun is about to begin for those remaining.
The Class 4A and Class 5A playoffs begin today for both the boys and girls with a handful of area teams hoping their campaign does not end anytime soon. Highlighted by a pair of district champions, a total of 10 local teams — six boys and four girls — will open their postseason runs this week.
While some programs are making their first playoff appearances, others are looking to extend streaks and create legacies. Some fought to the final match before securing a berth, but several have known for weeks they would be involved in postseason competition.
Regardless of circumstance, each is positioned exactly where it hoped to be on the opening day of practice — in the playoffs.
Belton (18-2-4, 13-1 8-5A) vs. Cedar Hill, TBD
Outlook: Belton has won the district title seven of the eight years Tarcisio Mosnia has been at the helm, claiming its fifth straight title when it defeated Shoemaker last week.
The Tigers are led by Angel Hernandez, who scored a season high six goals in a 10-2 win over Killeen on March 13.
Belton did not know who it was going to play until late Friday night when Cedar Hill tied 7-5A district leader Midlothian and edged out Mansfield for the last playoff spot.
Ellison (16-6-1, 10-4 8-5A) vs. Duncanville, Friday 6 p.m. at Waco ISD Sports Complex
Outlook: The Eagles are in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, securing the No. 3 seed by way of a season sweep of longtime nemesis Harker Heights — their first ever wins over the Knights.
Led by talented juniors Nathan Diederich and Mohamed Balde and senior forward Ryan Stuckey, Ellison enters playing near-perfect ball, outscoring their last four opponents by a combined 11-0 since nearly upsetting district champion Belton 2-1 on March 1.
Harker Heights (14-8-4, 6-6-2 8-5A) vs. Midlothian, Friday 8 p.m. at Waco ISD Sports Complex
Outlook: Making their third straight playoff trip, the Knights have been rather inconsistent at times, including suffering the first-ever losses to cross-city rival Ellison. Yet behind the senior leadership of midfielder Ethan Roden and forwards Tristan Huber and Jordan Foster, Heights is riding high after blowing out Temple 9-0 on March 12.
But now the Knights face their toughest competition yet in District 7-5A champion Midlothian, winners of 11 straight after a 0-0 district-opening tie to second-seeded Duncanville.
Salado (15-6-3, 8-2 34-4A) at Waco La Vega, Tuesday 8 p.m.
Outlook: The Eagles enter their second playoffs in as many seasons as a program, and come in even hotter than they did a year ago as the No. 2 seed in District 34-4A.
Salado, which lost to Brownwood 2-1 last Tuesday to fall out of contention for the district title, comes in with a chip on its shoulder, led by juniors Chase Crenwelge, Patrick Murray and Dennie Barker.
Gatesville (7-9-2, 5-5 34-4A) vs. Waco, Monday 6 p.m. at Waco ISD Sports Complex
Outlook: The Hornets are making their first playoff appearance in the program’s short history under first-year head coach Van Collins.
Franco Vega leads the Hornets with 10 goals this season, while teammates Abate Hennessy and freshman Ernesto Hernandez follow closely behind.
Although the playoffs are uncharted territory for Gatesville, Collins and several seniors have been part of the program since its inception four years ago, and the emotion of finally advancing beyond the regular season could either be a catalyst for success or the reason for an early downfall.
Lampasas (5-5 34-4A) vs. Waco University, Tuesday 8 p.m. at Temple’s Wildcat Stadium
Outlook: The Badgers lost a heartbreaker to Gatesville last week, sealing their fate as the fourth-place team from the district. As a result, Lampasas opens its playoff run against an extremely successful Trojans program.
Lampasas must be on point to defeat the 2012 regional semifinalists. Badgers sophomore Nick Lawson spearheads the offensive attack, while senior goalkeeper Josh Barbero serves as a strong last line of defense.
Belton (18-4-1, 12-0-1 8-5A) vs. Duncanville, Thursday 8 p.m. at Waco ISD Sports Complex
Outlook: The Lady Tigers steamrolled through District 8-5A again, only tying Waco Midway at Waco.
Jamie Boone led the way for Belton, scoring 29 goals for Belton. But the Lady Tigers are not one- dimensional, with a solid defense led by Jacey Love and Kat Parker in the midfield. Aubrey Martinez adds scoring punch when teams overfocus on stopping Boone.
Salado (8-13-1, 4-6 34-4A) vs. Waco University, Tuesday 5 p.m. at Woodson Field in Temple
Outlook: The Lady Eagles reach the playoffs for the first time in its history after missing out in its inaugural season a year ago as the No. 4 seed.
Salado enters on a high note after snapping a three-game losing streak with a convincing 3-0 shutout of Gatesville in the season finale Friday.
Lampasas (16-8-2, 9-1 34-4A) vs. Waco, Tuesday 6 p.m. at Temple’s Wildcat Stadium
Outlook: The Lady Badgers cruised through District 34-4A with only one hiccup and won the program’s first district championship since 1993.
Led by sophomore center midfielder Analise Watson, who scored a career-high four goals in a win against Gatesville last week, Lampasas continues to improve under second-year head coach Tracy Brantley.
Topping last season’s run to sectionals could prove difficult, however, for an extremely young team sporting only one senior.
Copperas Cove (15-10, 7-7 8-5A) vs. Mansfield, Thursday 6 p.m. at Waco ISD Sports Complex
Outlook: With junior Shelbie Letzer leading the way, the Lady Bulldawgs are in the playoffs for a third consecutive season, but it was not easy. Copperas Cove was forced into a corner before emerging with the program’s first-ever victory against Temple in the regular-season finale to finish fourth in district.
The Lady Bulldawgs failed to win their opening matches in each of the last two postseasons and will have a difficult time doing so this year against the Lady Tigers, who went 20-3 overall.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org