Written by Matt Wixon
Hebron dethrones back-to-back champs Plano West in penalty kicks for first title
GEORGETOWN — Texas stretches nearly 269,000 square miles, but the Hebron girls soccer team knew all season that its long road to state would end against a team a short drive away. The Hawks would need to beat Plano West, the two-time defending champs.
On Saturday, Hebron won the neighborhood battle, and with it, the Class 5A state championship. After a scoreless match went to penalty kicks, Hebron goalkeeper Molly Lansford made two saves to secure the 1-0 (4-3 shootout) victory at Birkelbach Field.
“Our biggest goal was to stay away from the three-peat,” Hebron coach Eric Ramirez said. “We did not want them to have a three-peat.”
Not because there is animosity toward Plano West, which is less than four miles from Hebron. But Hebron’s soccer program has long toiled in the shadow of Plano West, which has won six girls state soccer titles.
Now Hebron gets the spotlight.
“We fought for each other as a team,” senior defender Laura Scholz said, “because this was our last game together, and we were not going to lose.”
But Hebron (24-2-2) almost did. In the final 30 seconds of overtime, Plano West (20-3-4) nearly broke the drought when Rachel Grout had a clear look at the goal from about 20 yards out on the left side. Her shot sailed wide right.
Hebron had the better scoring chances in the match, getting credited with eight shots on goal to three for Plano West. Scholz and Caroline Paulette each had a blast from about 25 yards away that nailed the crossbar. Both shots were then cleared by Plano West goalkeeper Mariel Gordon, and Hebron was frustrated as the match went to a shootout.
A few minutes later, Hebron was celebrating as Lansford kicked away a shot in the third round of penalty kicks. Gordon also made a save in the third round, leaving the teams tied at 3-3 entering the fifth and final round.
Plano West went first in the round, and Lansford moved to her left and batted the shot away with her hands.
“For each one, I just pick a side and guess, honestly,” said Lansford, who was named MVP of the match. “You just hit it with your toe, your shoelace, anything, to help it get out.”
Lansford had also made two saves in the penalty-kick shootout in the regional final.
“She’s a big-time keeper,” Ramirez said, “and we have big-time shooters.”
The last of those shooters was Alanna Castenada, who got the chance to finish off Hebron’s magical run. The junior midfielder’s shot to the left sailed into the goal untouched, and Hawks players rushed on to the field.
“State champs first time here. First time ever,” Scholz said. “We came out to do one thing: win.”