Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Byron Nelson girls ousted in 4A semis; no chance for all-DFW girls championship
GEORGETOWN — For a 4-year-old program, Trophy Club Byron Nelson already has played in some of the UIL’s most memorable girls soccer playoff games.
Unfortunately for Byron Nelson, it lost another heartbreaker on penalty kicks to be eliminated in the Class 4A state semifinals by Austin Vandegrift, 2-1 (5-3 in the penalty kicks) .
Byron Nelson held a 1-0 lead before Vandegrift tied the score in the 63rd minute. After a 20-minute overtime, Vandegrift scored on five penalty kicks, and goalie Mariah Lechner dove to the right to make a save and give Vandegrift the victory on the penalty kicks without Nelson even shooting its fifth attempt.
Byron Nelson had a header go off the crossbar in overtime, and Vandegrift junior Paige Welch, an Oklahoma pledge, made a spectacular foot save off the line to prevent Byron Nelson from scoring in the second half.
“We showed our heart, and we couldn’t have left anything thing else out there,” said Madison Hall, one of five Byron Nelson seniors. “We’ve got a lot of good young players who will be coming back, and they have the same desire to be good.”
Byron Nelson (22-3-5) lost in a dramatic state final against Highland Park in 2012. After a scoreless regulation and overtime, Highland Park defeated Byron Nelson in the 10th round of a shootout. Last year, Byron Nelson was eliminated by eventual state champion Denton Guyer in the regional final.
“Two evenly matched teams played well and, at state, that’s what you expect,” Byron Nelson coach Philip Salyer said. “The intensity was high, legs were heavy. I’m proud of them. It happens. You have to have a winner. Someone has to move on.”
Geographically in Austin but in the Leander ISD, Vandegrift (18-3-2) plays Wylie East (24-1-1) in the 4A state final at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Byron Nelson took a 1-0 lead four minutes into the second half after freshman Alexis Smith pushed in a loose ball just inside the bar from inside 10 yards.
Vandegrift needed overtime in the regional final and advanced on penalty kicks in the third round. All five of Vandegrift’s penalty kickers drilled in their shots with confidence in the shootout against Byron Nelson.
“It seems to be the way they like to do it,” Vandegrift coach Jen Hardy said. “You can’t buy that kind of experience when the pressure is on. Nervous energy isn’t a negative. It’s a positive if you let it fill you up and use it.”