GATESVILLE — Both Salado and Gatesville have excellent soccer programs, and they showed why on Monday.
In a playoff warmup, the Salado girls defeated Gatesville 5-1 in the opener, and with two second-half goals, the Salado boys beat Gatesville 3-1.
On the boys side, the Eagles got things going quickly when Kaden Smien slipped past the Gatesville goalkeeper and put the ball in the back of the net in the fourth minute.
Things did not start easy for Salado as the Hornets gave the 25-4A district champions all they could handle thanks to the play of Gatesville goalkeeper Ethan Fayas.
The sophomore made saves on 11 Salado shots on goal.
The 1-0 Salado lead lasted until the second half. With 21 minutes left in the game, Gabe Retana sent in a kick from 20 yards out that sailed high over the head of Salado goalkeeper Ferman Vitolas.
“Holding Salado to three goals is something to be proud of,” said Gatesville boys head coach Mark Collins. “Two of them were penalty kicks on mistakes that we shouldn’t be making.
“On their first goal, one of my guys slipped. I was very proud of the way we played defensively. That was huge,” Collins said.
“Gabe is a freshman and he has become accustomed to putting the ball in the net. He is not afraid to take shots from anywhere. He is an exciting kid with a bright future,” Collins said.
Salado (21-2) began to flex its muscles late in the second half when the Eagles scored on two penalty kicks. With eight minutes left in the game, Camden LaCanne was able to sneak the ball past the goalkeeper for the game-deciding goal. A few minutes later, Costas Loullis scored on a penalty kick.
Salado head coach Michael Goos admitted the win did not come easily and that the Hornets (7-10-2) came ready to play.
“We came out really hot, but we missed a lot of chances early and it kind of came back to bite us there a little bit,” Goos said. “I’m glad that we were able to squeak that one out right there at the end.”
The Eagles decided to rest star goalkeeper Trey Sheppard in the game in advance of the playoffs later this week.
The Salado boys will open the playoffs Thursday against La Grange at 5:30 p.m. in Manor in the bi-district round.
“I feel like we are in a good spot. We are confident and prepared now by playing a very good Gatesville team. This game was all about shaking the rust off before heading into the playoffs,” Goos said.
Gatesville will host Anahuac at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the first round of the playoffs.
Earlier in the day, the Salado girls started fast and finished strong as they defeated Gatesville 5-1, thanks to the play of several players.
Salado outshot the Lady Hornets 20-9.
Hannah Reavis, Madison Spradlin, Reagan Morreale, Annie Ewton and Cat Langlitz all scored for the Lady Eagles.
Down 2-0, Gatesville senior Jessica Ortiz was able to race past the goalkeeper for the Lady Hornets’ lone goal.
The Lady Eagles held a 3-1 lead at halftime.
Despite the loss, Gatesville girls head coach Amanda Johnson knows her team got better by playing a quality opponent in Salado.
“Our team always has been resilient all year long. We feel like we are prepared heading into the playoffs and we are excited about the opportunity ahead,” Johnson said.
The Gatesville Lady Hornets (9-7) will host Anahuac on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to open the playoffs.
Goos knows his girls have been bothered by injuries lately, but likes how they have come together at the right moment and likes the way his squad is playing.
“With the girls, it’s always someone different who steps up and picks up the slack,” Goos said.
“They are getting very good at playing together.”
The Lady Eagles will face Taylor in the bi-district round of the playoffs at 5:30 p.m. in Manor on Thursday.