WACO — College Station did it again.

One year after eliminating Lampasas from the sectional round of the Region III-4A playoffs, the Lady Cougars repeated the feat, using a four-goal outburst in the first half to propel them to a 5-1 victory.

While disappointed with the outcome as the Lady Badgers suffered their third consecutive departure in the third round, Lampasas head coach Tracy Brantley found solace in her players’ second-half performances.

“After halftime, they definitely looked like a different team,” she said. “They knew it would probably be their last game, already losing 4-0, so we switched some stuff around, added some people up top because we needed some type of goal, and it definitely helped.”

The damage, however, was already inflicted.

Playing at Waco ISD Stadium, the Lady Cougars needed a mere 15 minutes to construct a two-goal advantage as junior Maddie Kothmann started the scoring in the ninth minute.

Less than five minutes later, Maddie Jenkins’ corner kick set up a header by teammate Jaylen Hinckley, who slipped the ball past Lampasas goalkeeper Sam Nunnery.

Then College Station took complete control of the match, scoring on a pair of penalty kicks by Hinckley and Reagan Martin, respectively, accounting for the goals. The first occurred within three minutes of College Station’s second goal before the Lady Cougars recorded their fourth unanswered goal with six minutes remaining in the first half.

Following the match, Brantley, who openly disagreed with the calls, admitted the penalties changed the entire complexion of the contest.

“It hurt,” she said, “definitely. But I think the girls bounced back, did what they needed to do and slowed it down.”

Bailey Hilgenberg, who played on the varsity for Lampasas as a freshman when the team only won two matches, agreed with

her coach’s sentiments regarding the costly penalty kicks.

“It is our morale that it kills,” the senior said. “We play so hard, make good tackles, and then to get a call on it is just like a kick in the stomach. It pulled us down a little bit.”

The Lady Badgers earned a bit of moral victory early in the second half as junior Analise Watson connected on a penalty kick of her own, trimming Lampasas’ deficit to 4-1. Occurring less than 90 seconds after halftime, the goal snapped a streak of 19 consecutive shutouts for College Station, which advances to play Port Neches-Groves in the upcoming regional quarterfinals.

From the sideline, the goal felt as if it could potentially trigger a comeback, according to Brantley.

“There was definitely some momentum,” she said. “The girls on the bench were like, ‘Oh, maybe we can get three more.’ There was a spark in their eyes and a little quicker step after that.”

But College Station’s defense denied any attempt at a rally, virtually securing the victory 20 minutes later when Steele Fancher collected a corner kick and delivered it to the back of the net.

Despite the stinging defeat, Brantley feels good about her team moving forward, with only four seniors graduating and the University Interscholastic League changing its rules to allow future Class 4A teams to play in a division by themselves.

“I think it will be a totally different ballgame next year,” Brantley said. “I told the girls who are staying to be ready because next year we could be going a whole lot farther.”

While Hilgenberg will not be around to help Lampasas attempt to win a third consecutive district championship or try to finally overcome its plaguing third-round hurdle, she believes the future is bright for the Lady Badgers.

“They are going to kill it,” Hilgenberg said. “They are going to be amazing. They are losing some good seniors, but these girls are amazing players, and they are going to keep this going.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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