Written by Corbett Smith
5A Region I soccer finals: 'Reluctant' scorer sends Coppell boys to state; Carroll girls cruise past FM Marcus
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — Before the award presentation Saturday, Coppell midfielder Drake Lovelady got some ribbing from one of his teammates.
“See? That’s what happens when you shoot the ball,” fellow senior Austin Broyles said to Lovelady.
A reluctant shooter, Lovelady split the Flower Mound Marcus defense and — this time, at least — didn’t look to pass. His 12-yard shot in the 64th minute sailed into the roof of the goal, giving Coppell a 1-0 win in the 5A Region I boys final at the Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletic Complex.
“It’s always been my problem,” Lovelady said. “When I was growing up, I was always the playmaker, not the one who scored the goals. I’ve had to transition into that role for this team in the playoffs.”
Coppell (21-2-0) qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 2006, after back-to-back seasons of disappointing losses in the bi-district round to Hebron.
“Just having all that time to think about what could have been … we knew he had the ability to do it,” Coppell coach Chad Rakestraw said. “It’s just being able to grind out some wins in the playoffs, which is the tough part.”
There was no question that Saturday’s win was a grind. Marcus (22-3-2) dominated the better part of the last 60 minutes of play, forcing Rakestraw to move a forward back into midfield to gain possession, a tactical change he made right before the goal.
Haiden Stiles, Marcus’ speedy senior forward, was a threat throughout the game with charging runs and nifty footwork. In the 49th minute, Stiles gave Marcus its best chance, a 25-yard shot off the left post that was quickly cleared by Coppell’s defense.
Southlake Carroll 4, Flower Mound Marcus 1: For someone as prolific as Southlake Carroll forward Sophie Groff, her one playoff goal heading into the 5A Region I final wasn’t up to par, considering she had scored 25 during the regular season.
The senior, who has signed with South Carolina, picked the right time to end her drought.
She scored two goals from 30 yards or farther, placing them both in the top right corner, as Carroll pulled away from Flower Mound Marcus for the regional title.
“It was about time,” Groff said.
Carroll (29-2-0) will return to the state tournament for the first time since 2008, when it won the 5A title.
Marcus (24-4-1) opened the scoring 20 minutes into the game, off a header from Baylee Mitchell set up by a corner kick from Katelyn Mountjoy.
Carroll, on the other hand, seemed flat early. That quickly changed right before the half, energized by Groff’s first score, a 33-yard shot in the 33rd minute.
“You aren’t going to save that,” Marcus coach Chad Hobbs said of Groff’s blast. “And when she did that, it took a lot of momentum out of us right then.”
Two of Hobbs’ concerns heading into the game were allowing Groff any scoring chances and Carroll’s set pieces.
The latter, in the 59th minute, gave Carroll the lead for good; a header by Meghan Murphy was set up by a perfect corner kick to the back post from Julia Dyche. Groff added her second goal five minutes later on a 30-yard strike.
“It’s finally our time,” Dyche said. “It’s such a good feeling, and it means the world to us.”
Follow Corbett Smith on Twitter at @corbettsmithDMN