Last year, Gatesville crossed one goal off its list. The Hornets have two more to go.
In 2013, the Gatesville boys soccer team earned its first playoff berth, signifying the culmination of a laborious process that began four years prior with the program’s inception.
The Hornets proved their postseason debut was no fluke by clinching a second consecutive playoff appearance with a 4-1 victory at Lorena last week.
Having cleared the first significant hurdle for any young program, Gatesville head coach Van Collins now wants more.
“Our second goal is to win a district championship,” he said. “Unfortunately, we
kind of let that get away from us a little early this year, so we are not quite there yet, but we are striving for that district championship, which keeps our drive and our push going. Our third goal is to win a playoff game.”
Gatesville will soon have a chance to earn its first postseason victory, but the Hornets’ odds are greatly diminished if they lose to Lampasas tonight.
On paper, the squads are playing for sole possession of third place in the District 34-4A standings. But, in reality, much more is on the line.
While the winner gets the upper hand in the playoff picture heading into the regular season finale, equally important to the equation is the loser falls into fourth, setting up a potential first-round match against defending state champion Waco University.
“We want to avoid University at all costs,” Collins said.
Thanks to Gatesville, the Badgers were not so fortunate last season, losing to the Trojans in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Hornets traveled to Lampasas late in the season last year and beat the Badgers in an identical situation to clinch the district’s third seed, while also dropping the Badgers into fourth to set up their date with University.
But recent history is not on the Hornets’ side. Lampasas avenged the loss in this season’s first district encounter, beating Gatesville 3-1, sparking a four-match winning streak for the Badgers before first-place Salado ended the run last Friday.
The back and forth between the teams has created an interesting dynamic for tonight’s match.
“There is no revenge factor, but for the guys, it is just about proving they are better,” Lampasas head coach Ryan Race said. “We’ve got to stay strong defensively, have good communication all over the field and get some good cracks on the back post.”
Scoring against Gatesville (10-8-1, 5-3) has been difficult during district. The Hornets have only allowed eight goals in their last eight games, but three came against the Badgers.
Lampasas junior Nick Lawson scored twice in the first half before Jose Ruiz pulled Gatesville within a goal shortly after intermission, but the Hornets did not get any closer.
With four minutes remaining in regulation, Lawson found teammate Dustin Rumple, who provided the match’s final goal.
Tied in the standings and sitting just one game behind Brownwood, either team could hypothetically climb all the way to second in the district depending on how things work out over the next two games, but Race is not looking beyond tonight.
“We just need to beat Gatesville to be in third,” he said.