WAXAHACHIE — Hayley Kelley’s high school career ended with a loss, and she could not be happier.

After years of fantasizing about a playoff run, the Ellison senior’s dream came true Friday evening, when the Lady Eagles made their first postseason appearance since 2005.

The contest did not go as planned, though.

Playing against District 11-6A champion Rockwall-Heath, Ellison was on the defensive almost all match, and it resulted in a 6-0 loss in the opening round.

While it was a disappointing outcome, Kelley refused to dwell on the negative.

“We’ve been wanting to make the playoffs for years now,” the goalkeeper said, “so I can’t walk off this field with my head down. I’m proud to say I’ve made it to the playoffs.

“It is an amazing feeling that I can’t even describe. Just being here makes me happy, and regardless of whether we won or lost, we made our dreams come true.”

And Kelley delivered a stellar performance in her final match.

Despite allowing six goals, Kelley finished with 29 saves as the Lady Hawks dominated the field, producing 52 shots.

But the showing was simply not enough, according to Ellison head coach Rebecca Mayse.

“Hayley had an amazing game and made a lot of amazing saves and played her heart out,” she said, “but I just feel like maybe nerves got the best of us, because the effort just wasn’t there that we’ve had in the last few games.

“We lost some starters due to injuries, but I’m just proud of the girls for even making it to the playoffs. We’re ending on a positive note.”

Even with Heath controlling the field, it took 27 minutes and 23 shots before finally recording its first goal, and the score held until the 35th minute, when the Lady Hawks pushed their lead to 2-0 going into halftime.

“I thought we were playing really good defense,” Kelley said, “but there were things we needed to work on.

“I wish we could have improved on that in the second half, but the outcomes are not always what you planned.”

A mere 90 seconds into the second half, Heath recorded its third goal before a two-goal outburst during a two-minute span midway through the half essentially sealed the Lady Eagles’ fate, and the Lady Hawks posted their final goal in the 61st minute.

With the victory, Heath advances to play Prosper in next week’s area round, while Ellison begins working toward a second consecutive playoff appearance next season.

The Lady Eagles will have to do so without a dozen seniors, though.

“They demonstrated that with hard work, effort and talent that we can make it to the playoffs,” Mayse said. “And the younger girls have all that.

“It just takes direction from the coaching staff and motivation to get there.”

Although Kelley will not be around to take part in another playoff run, she will never forget her lone trip into the postseason.

“I wish I had more seasons to try and come back,” Kelley said, “but hopefully, the program just keeps moving forward, and they get the chance to come back here again, because this is just an amazing feeling.”

BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS

Class 6A bi-district

  • Belton 1, Rockwall-Heath 0

Class 4A bi-district

  • Palestine 8, Gatesville 1

GIRLS SOCCER PLAYOFFS

Class 6A bi-district

  • Rockwall-Heath 6, Ellison 0

Class 4A bi-district

  • Boerne 9, Lampasas 0
  • Gatesville 4, Madisonville 0

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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