LAMPASAS — It is almost time for Tracy Brantley to say goodbye.
Arriving at Lampasas in 2012, Brantley inherited a soccer program at its lowest point following a two-win season. In her debut, the Lady Badgers produced an 18-8-1 record and have not turned back since, recently securing their third consecutive postseason berth while inching closer to defending their District 34-4A championship.
While multiple players have helped revive the program over the past three years, the current quartet of seniors holds special meaning to Brantley.
“My first year here was their sophomore years, so all I know is them and everybody else after,” she said. “They are my little babies, so senior night was special for them and for me because they are growing up and leaving.”
After a slow start, Lampasas seniors Aimee Henderson, Bailey Hilgenberg, Sierra Rash and Maria Salinas emerged victorious in their final home match, beating Salado 2-0 on Friday.
Although the win was an ideal way to celebrate the group’s career, Brantley does not intend for it to be the team’s final celebration.
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Lady Badgers are on the verge of clinching back-to-back district titles, sporting a 7-1 record and a relatively comfortable cushion in the point standings after entering Friday’s match leading 19-14 over second-place Robinson.
Despite playing some of their best soccer right now, the Lady Badgers must display patience and poise over the duration of the season to finish strong.
Lampasas does not play again until traveling to face Gatesville (0-7 34-4A) on Friday. Following the match, the Lady Badgers are idle for 10 days due to spring break before playing the Lady Rockets in the season finale, which could potentially determine the district champion.
With long layoffs occurring at a critical point in the season, Brantley is admittedly nervous about the upcoming weeks.
“I can see them getting relaxed,” she said laughing. “Definitely. They are the team that works hard when they need to, but then they get excited about having a day off. … But they go hard, and sometimes they need a break. I don’t want to overstress their muscles, but we will definitely be having some practices over spring break just so they don’t get too lax.”
Last season, the Lady Badgers withstood a furious rally by Robinson in the regular season finale, blowing a two-goal lead in the final 19 minutes. But in the match’s last 180 seconds, Lampasas scored two goals to secure the win and the program’s first district championship since 2003.
Brantley would not be surprised to see a similar situation occur again.
“It might come down to the last game,” she said. “You never know, and we don’t need that to happen.”
Regardless of how the remainder of the schedule works out, Lampasas is guaranteed a trip to the upcoming playoffs, where it has lost in the sectional round each of the previous two seasons.
In order to avoid repeating that outcome this year, Brantley believes it will all come down to her players’ collective mentality.
“They have to come out with a want to win,” she said. “Whether they want to come out and play kickball or they want to come out and play soccer is always the key. … A lot of them want to go further than those three rounds, but to do that, they have to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org