It was another successful season for area soccer teams. The postseason, however, was over for most before it had an opportunity to truly begin.
Of the five area teams to reach the playoffs, only one — Salado — was able to produce a victory, and outside of the Eagles’ 2-0 win against Mexia, the squads were defeated by a combined score of 27-5.
Despite the outcomes, several head coaches view the experiences as significant building blocks, predicting big things for their teams in the immediate future, especially at Gatesville and Salado, where the programs are still in their infancy.
Established five years ago, the Hornets’ soccer team reached the playoffs for just the second time in its brief history but was left still searching for its first postseason victory after encountering the defending state champion in the opening round.
University scored its opening goal 10 minutes into the match before recording consecutive goals within 30 seconds of one another to take complete control en route to a 5-1 win.
While the loss was disappointing, the experience was invaluable, according to Gatesville head coach Van Collins.
“We fixed a lot of stuff at halftime and during the game that I was proud of our guys for really noticing,” he said. “I didn’t have to talk about it. They noticed it, they figured it out, they made the adjustment on the field and communicated to one another about that. So that is a huge victory for us right there moving forward.”
The Eagles did not come into existence until 2012, but have made the most of their time, producing a playoff win in each of their first three seasons.
Equally important, Salado earned its first district championship this season, but like Gatesville, the Eagles were overwhelmed early in their playoff loss.
Jacksonville scored five unanswered goals in the first half before riding the surge to a 7-1 victory.
“I was very happy with the way we responded in the second half,” Salado head coach Michael Goos said following the loss. “A lot of teams would just fall apart being down 5-0 at halftime. But our guys played them basically straight up in that second half.”
Belton — one of the area’s more decorated programs — also struggled in the postseason, losing to Mansfield 3-2 to end a streak of eight consecutive appearances in the area round.
The teams finished regulation and overtime tied 2-2 before Mansfield won on penalty kicks, outdueling Belton 4-3.
It proved to be the best showing of any area team in a postseason loss.
After finishing fourth in District 8-5A, Ellison was eliminated by Duncanville for the second consecutive season.
The Panthers scored six goals in the second half to win 7-1, ending the Eagles second postseason appearance in 13 years.
Like Ellison, Lampasas has experienced a resurgence in recent seasons.
Following a stretch of winning a mere six matches over a three-year span, the Badgers returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last season. This year, they repeated the feat, but Waco quickly dispatched them from the postseason, scoring four goals in the first half before winning 5-0.
Nevertheless, Lampasas head coach Ryan Race is certain his team is moving in the right direction.
“Hopefully, we will have a junior varsity squad as well next year,” he said. “That recently went to the board. ... That would give us more of a developmental approach and allow us to move forward. But I am so proud of these guys because we have moved so far ahead of where we were two years ago.”