Written by SportsDayDFW.com
5A Region I soccer: Hebron girls gain 1st state berth; Coppell boys headed back to state
JUSTIN — Perseverance and patience, and a pretty talented team, finally led to Hebron’s first state tournament berth in girls soccer since the school opened in 2000.
Hebron defeated nemesis Southlake Carroll, 1-0, in Saturday’s Class 5A Region I final at Justin Northwest ISD Stadium. Carroll had ousted Hebron in the playoffs the last two seasons.
“We have been so close,” 15-year coach Eric Ramirez said. “We have been in a regional final six or seven times. Hebron has won state titles in football and volleyball. We want to be the next team sport.”
Hebron will play in the state semifinals Thursday in Georgetown, with the UIL announcing pairings Sunday.
Hebron junior midfielder Alanna Castaneda got the only goal Saturday by firing in a shot from about 25 yards in the opening seconds of the second half.
Hebron (21-2-2) held Carroll (23-2-1) to a scoreless tie in the first half as Carroll got a stiff wind at its back. Carroll wasted no time getting off two shots with the wind that were saved by junior goalie Molly Lansford. Hebron was able to keep a balanced field despite going against the wind.
With the wind, Hebron took a lead in the 41st minute.
“We wanted to go against the wind first and have the energy with the it in the second half,” Castaneda said. “We said at halftime, ‘Shoot with the wind.’ I saw the ball. It felt like a good touch. As soon as it went off my foot, I thought, ‘That’s going in.’”
Castaneda had three goals in a pair of regional victories, including a similar long-range shot for one of her two goals in a 4-1 regional semifinal victory over Keller.
Hebron was eliminated by Carroll in a 5A regional final in 2008 after being eliminated by Flower Mound Marcus in the regional final in 2007. Two years ago, Carroll ousted Hebron in the first round. Last year, Carroll beat Hebron in the regional semifinals.
“They had a stronger team than us last year, I really think we had a stronger team this year, so it’s a little bit different,” Ramirez said. “I think we’re the best team in Region I. But we had to beat a lot of good teams to get to state.”
Coppell 2, Flower Mound Marcus 0: In Midland, junior forward Austin Michaelis, returning after serving a one-game suspension in the regional semifinals, scored a first-half goal to help Coppell win the 5A Region I final.
The win, Coppell’s 12th straight postseason victory, sent the defending state champion Cowboys (21-1-2) to the state tournament. The 5A semifinals are Thursday at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown.
Flower Mound Marcus ended its season 19-2-4. Both losses were to District 5-5A foe Coppell. The two teams also tied this season. But a second consecutive loss to its rival in the regional final is what stings most.
“It’s a little more bitter, this one, because it’s the second one in a row,” Marcus coach John Gall said. “It’s a great season and super proud of the kids, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we are all quite disappointed with the result.”
Marcus could’ve easily been down much more than 1-0 at halftime, were it not for the efforts of goalkeeper Landon Plunkett. The sophomore, who collected nine saves in total, was challenged six times in the opening 40 minutes and stopped five of those, including a kick-save at point-blank range three minutes after Michaelis’ goal in the 34th minute.
Coppell keeper Eric Benenson didn’t see nearly the action Plunkett encountered, but kept it level at 0-0 a little more than midway through the first half with a diving save of Hank Steinhafel’s shot, and then relied on his defense to clear a rebound attempt from his line and out of danger.
“We had a chance to put one in — we didn’t,” Gall said.
A free kick in into the Marauders’ 18-yard box was never truly cleared, and the ball ended up with Michaelis, who unleashed a curling shot placed to the far upper corner of the net for a 1-0 Cowboys lead. An insurance goal by Kellen Reid in the 55th minute was a headed finish off a deflection of a Michaelis’ long throw in.