The Belton Lady Tiger Soccer team made a return to Mexia’s BlackCat Stadium on Friday night, as the team took on Mansfield Lake Ridge in the Texas UIL Class 6A Regional Quarterfinal round.
Kirsten Bush scored Belton’s lone regulation goal with a spin-and-kick in the game’s 24th minute. The Eagles’ Kaylee Mosley picked up the equalizer in the match’s 47th minute. For the second game in a row for the Lady Tigers’ the match went to a double-overtime and penalty kicks. In the end, Lake Ridge’s Monique Molinar’s tuck inside the left post provided the Eagles the “golden goal” the fifth round of PK’s for a 5-4 win over Belton.
Lake Ridge moves on to the Regional Semifinals against Tomball Memorial, a 2-1 winner over Klein Cain. Belton’s season ends with an 18-3-2 record, having a 16-game winning streak snapped. Prior to Friday night, the Lady Tigers’ last loss was on January 15: a 1-0 loss to Cedar Park at the Georgetown Governor’s Cup.
The speed of Lake Ridge was a challenge for the Lady Tigers from the start. However, Belton put solid pressure on both ends of the field over the first 25 minutes. Smooth defense by back liners Sophie Elliott, Rylyn Reyes, Rachel Mahan and Madison Farwell provided goalkeeper Katelyn Chrisman plenty of room to work with in the goal box.
Offensive support from Bush, Sara Navarro, Evie Nix, Abby Cargile, Makenna Morrow and Allie Angell pestered and frustrated the Lake Ridge squad, who had coasted through their first two playoff games by a combined score of 21-0.
Chrisman made seven solid saves in the first 25 minutes, the last that set the stage for Belton’s goal.
Deep offensive pressure in the Eagles’ end allotted Belton the opportunity for a throw in. Cargile’s heave was headed by Nix in the goal box. The redirect landed at the feet of Bush, who touched the ball once, spun and kicked it past Eagles’ goalkeeper Bella Avita to give Belton a 1-0 lead with 16:24 to play in the first half.
Pressing for a goal in the final 13 minutes of the half, Lake Ridge turned up the physicality. Lake Ridge’s Camryn Lancaster drew a yellow card for running over Cargile at the middle of the pitch with 7:34 to play in the half.
Six seconds later, Abby Ponder was knocked down and Belton was awarded another free kick. Ponder’s kick went straight into the wall, and she drilled the rebound wide of the left post for a goal kick for the Eagles.
Daysha Thomas intercepted a Lake Ridge rush along the back line to steer the ball clear of the Belton end.
Morrow was tackled in the Lake Ridge goal box with 1:10 to play. However, the referee did not rule the play to be a foul and play went on.
Belton led the match at the half, 1-0.
Lake Ridge’s attack was relentless, as the Belton defensive was forced to make a couple of great stops early. Chrisman made four stops, one on an excellent redirection on a slide tackle on a shot by Lancaster by Angell at the top of the goal box.
Belton caught a bad break, as a penalty kick was awarded to Lake Ridge after a questionable foul call in the goal box with 33:03 left in regulation. Mosley popped the penalty kick into the net to tie the match at 1-1.
Farwell and Reyes made two important saves in the contest, as Farwell headed a ball away from the goal and Reyes made a clear destined for the right inside post.
With 19:07 left in regulation, Mahan fielded a pass and was trucked from behind by Lancaster. The referee issued the Eagles’ senior her second yellow card and subsequent red card, signaling her disqualification and forcing the Eagles to play a player down for the rest of the game.
It made the Eagles even more tenacious on offense, as Chrisman was pressed into even more big stops. Chrisman dove from post to post, punched shots over the crossbar and jumped into traffic to grab aerial traffic from the skies of the pitch, demonstrating fearlessness beyond reproach.
Thomas and Delaney Bouteller double-teamed an Eagle forward to steer the ball out of harm’s way. Nix headed away a Lake Ridge corner kick into the box and Ponder and Bouteller combined for another stop late.
As the time great shorter in regulation, the Eagles’ shots became further and further in distance, with Chrisman saving all of them. Bush blocked Lake Ridge’s final chance in regulation with 1:20 to play, as the teams prepared to lock up in double-overtime.
Morrow’s attack down the left side set up a shot by Farwell for 20 yards out, which was saved by Avita 50 seconds into the opening overtime session.
Halfway into the first overtime, an Eagles’ shot heading for the left corner of the goal was punched away by Chrisman to force a Lake Ridge corner kick. Chrisman made a diving save to her right by the post a minute later, and Bush cleared out another loose ball. Chrisman repeated with another dive to her right with 1:57 to go in the overtime and jumped into a traffic jam in the box to grab an aerial attempt with 15 sessions left in the opening OT session.
Reyes made a solid defensive clear 18 seconds into the second overtime, and Elliott followed with a sliding clear with 8:33 left in the second overtime stanza. Chrisman made four more stops in the second overtime, including a punch save in traffic. Nix blocked another Lake Ridge scoring attempt with 2:13 remaining in the second OT.
Morrow’s drive down the left side of the pitch in the final strains of the overtime was met with a crushing collision that sent Belton’s excellent midfielder sprawling out of bounds. With no call from the officials, who directed the players to continue playing, they finally blew the whistle to stop play with five seconds to go, causing the Lake Ridge bench to erupt in anger. Morrow was helped off of the field by the Belton training staff. Play resumed and five seconds later, the teams headed to their benches to prepare for penalty kicks.
With the PK session taking place at the west end of BlackCat Field, Belton drew the first shot. Bush deposited the ball into the lower right- hand side to give the Lady Tigers the first lead. Samara Sanders answered with a shot to the inside of the right post to tie the session at 1-1.
Thomas’ shot was true inside the left post, which was answered by Alyssa Adams’ shot to the inside left post to tie the session at two goals apiece.
Morrow, after her ankle injury to end the second overtime, bravely made her way to the 12-yard line and booted the ball inside the right post to put Belton up once again. Alicia Riggins responded with a shot inside the left post to tie the score at 3-3.
Nix went to the right side with Belton’s fourth penalty kick, but it leaked to the right of the post. Mosley gave Lake Ridge their first lead of the penalty kick session with a goal to left side of the goal.
Ponder nailed Belton’s fifth-round kick inside the left post to tie the score at 4-4.
Molinar’s kick went just beyond Chrisman’s outstretched arms and fingertips just inside the left post for the Eagles’ golden goal.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Tiger Nation cheered mightily for the Lady Tigers on their hard fight and dedication after a chaotic 2020 and promising 2021 that saw the team earn their way to the school’s first girls’ soccer regional appearance since 2011.
“We worked so hard this season and we put our bodies behind the ball,” Chrisman said. “We gave everything that we had. From Tuesday night (PK win over Sachse at Mexia) and tonight, we played two amazing teams this week and we are just grateful for all of this. We have a great coach and great teammates. We gave it all that we got.”Belton Head Coach Oscar Bersoza stated that adjustments were made to counter the aggressive Lake Ridge offense. The tenacity and relentlessness of the Eagles was definitely a factor in the second half.
“In the first half, I thought, we were able to stay in our system that we play,” Bersoza said. “In the second half, they flipped the script and we were pinned back. In the final 10-15 minutes of the game, they were playing a man down in the final part of the game and since a forward was up. There was no reason to change. We dropped, and we saw this out in overtime. It was a tactical change because we weren’t able to get out. They pushed. They have some players. They were able to pin us back, so we decided to go for some blocks and try to see this out in overtime, which is as good as we could have done. To get through the second half the way that we did and get to overtime. I am not sure if their keeper even touched the ball in the second half.”
Bersoza reflected on the seniors and his 2021 team.
“I met this team when this senior class was sophomores,” Bersoza said. “It is just a great group of kids. I think that’s what stings the most and that it’s over. You saw the gritty performance out there tonight. The kids always bought into my coaching: right, wrong or indifferent. They bought in 100 percent. I have kids with hurt backs, hurt knees. Sara Navarro went out in the first half. That is just the program that they wanted to establish. This was a gritty team, a blue-collar team. Against teams like this, that will get us where we are. It is rough, losing this with the seniors. The only encouraging thing is that I hope that my underclassmen can see what these guys have done, take that and build in it.”