The turnaround is almost complete.
Prior to Ryan Race’s arrival, Lampasas was stuck in a rut, failing to win more than three soccer games in a single season during a three-year span stretching form 2010 to 2012. Needless to say, the Badgers never sniffed the playoffs as the team produced a combined record of 6-50-4.
Last season, the culture began to change.
In his 2013 debut with the program, Race guided Lampasas back to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Now, with a taste of success in their mouths, the Badgers want more. They want to make history.
“We are taking the next step,” Race said. “My first year here, making it to the playoffs was good enough. But this year, our whole mission is to win a playoff game. No guys’ soccer team has ever won a playoff game for Lampasas.”
The Badgers chances of achieving their goal improved dramatically Friday by traveling to Gatesville and beating the Hornets 5-3 in overtime, guaranteeing they would finish in the top three of the District 34-4A standings.
With the victory, Lampasas avoids playing defending state champion Waco University in the opening round. Last season, the Trojans beat the Badgers 6-0 in the bi-district round as they embarked on their title run.
For Lampasas junior Nick Lawson, who landed on the first team of last season’s all-district list, the Badgers are in a good position.
“That playoff win has been eluding us,” he said. “Seeding is huge, especially against District 33-4A, because we didn’t want to play the defending champs again. We realized that, and we put it into our own hands.”
However, the outcome could have been very different. Gatesville opened the match with a pair of unanswered goals from Ernesto Hernandez, carrying a 2-0 lead into halftime.
Ten minutes into the second half, Lawson began the Badgers’ rally with a goal, and four minutes later, teammate Javier Torres tied the score.
Lampasas claimed its first lead of the evening in the match’s final 10 minutes on Lawson’s second goal, but with 58 seconds remaining, the Hornets were awarded a penalty kick, and Hernandez capitalized on the opportunity, tying the score and forcing overtime.
“It felt like the game was just stolen from us,” Lawson said.
“But we didn’t put our heads down, thankfully, and we decided that in overtime, we were going to take this game. We were not going to let a stupid decision end the game for us.”
In overtime, Torres scored the go-ahead goal and Lawson provided some additional breathing room by scoring with less than seven minutes remaining, completing a hat trick.
It was almost the exact opposite of last season, when the Hornets traveled to Lampasas and earned a victory, dropping the Badgers into fourth place with the unenviable task of facing the Trojans, who were coming off a run to the regional semifinals in 2012.
This year, the roles are reversed, with the loss cementing Gatesville (10-9-1, 5-4) in fourth place.
Salado and Brownwood are tied atop the district standings at 7-2 following the Lions’ 4-2 victory against the Eagles last week.
Salado hosts Gatesville next week to conclude district play.
As for the Badgers, with the regular-season finale at Robinson looming, Race knows his team still has more work to do before achieving its ultimate goal of winning in the playoffs.
“We set ourselves up for a much better chance of winning in the postseason this year,” he said. “We need to go take care of business against Robinson, hope for a little luck, and we will see where we end up in the playoffs.”