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Soccer suspense: Bulldogs, Indians headed to Humble after close calls

Nederland 2 (6), Lumberton 2 (5)

One more victory each for Port Neches-Groves and Nederland, and the 5A Region III girls soccer championship will be determined by Mid-County Madness.

Emma Roccaforte scored the deciding goal in a 6-5 shootout win for Nederland over Lumberton on Tuesday night in a Region III quarterfinal at the Thomas Center in Beaumont. It was 2-2 after regulation and overtime.

Earlier that evening in Mont Belvieu, PNG knocked off previously unbeaten Porter 3-2 after a hot first half.

The victories put Nederland and PNG in Friday’s semifinal round at Turner Stadium in Humble. Nederland will face Leander Rouse at 11 a.m., followed by PNG against College Station at 1 p.m.

It will be the second time this playoff season PNG and Nederland played in back-to-back games. Their area-round games were held at Stallworth Stadium in Baytown last Friday.

NEDERLAND 2 (6), LUMBERTON 2 (5)

This was not the first time Roccaforte stepped into the penalty box as the Bulldogs’ sixth shooter.

She was unsuccessful against Kingwood Park and in the first meeting against Lumberton this season. So on Tuesday night, Nederland coach Keith Barrow asked his captain and goalkeeper: “You want it?”

“She said, yep,” Barrow said. “I said, you got it.”

She did get it … in the sixth round of shots.

Both teams went perfect in their first set of five, then Lumberton’s sixth try hit the crossbar, leaving the door open for Roccaforte and the Bulldogs (20-2-2).

Roccaforte also finished with 13 saves.

“Great soccer game,” Barrow said. “Fun atmosphere. Good crowd for both teams. Both teams laid it all out on the line, and it was good for soccer.”

The Bulldogs and Raiders (16-6-1) went scoreless in the second half and overtime. The first half was a different story.

Lumberton jumped to a 2-0 lead after 30 scoreless minutes, only for Meg Sheppard and Madison Ledet to even things up before intermission.

“We played so much better the second half,” Barrow said. “We looked like a totally different team. We were controlling the ball a lot more, but we were missing by a hair so many times. The opportunities were there, and we had them on our heels, I thought.”

PNG 3, PORTER 2

There was a reason Aimee Bates wanted her Port Neches-Groves team to begin the 5A playoffs in Humble: That’s where the Region III tournament will be held.

On to Humble the Indians go.

Grace Seymour scored two first-half goals to give the Indians a 3-0 lead, and they held off a second-half charge by Porter to win their Region III quarterfinal game at Barbers Hill High on Tuesday.

“I want to say how proud I am,” Bates said. “There are 16 teams left playing in the state of Texas. These are four of them. Regional tournament three years in a row? That is unbelievable.”

And for the fourth straight year, the Indians (21-2-1) will take on a College Station-area team in the postseason. A&M Consolidated eliminated PNG last season, and College Station High did the honors the previous two years.

Breeana Riggs put PNG on the board 8 minutes into the match, heading in a corner kick from Sophie Grant.

“Sophie lifted it up and Breeana headed it,” Bates said. “Great play for her to finish it off.”

Seymour scored on a corner kick 16 minutes in and a free kick 11 minutes later.

“First half, we did have the wind,” Bates said. “Wasn’t as gusty as it was the first game against New Caney. But it was to our advantage. We wanted it.”

A missed free kick in the second half seemed to swing momentum toward Porter (19-1), which was led by two members of the Mexican national team in Kimberly and Kelly Rodriguez, according to Bates. The Spartans scored off a corner with 25 minutes left and, following a handball call against PNG, made it 3-2 with 5 minutes to go.

Bates praised her defense for holding off the talented Spartans.

“Libbie LeJeune made some great saves and played great defense,” Bates said. LeJeune made seven saves.

“Hailey Loupe was physical, and Camryn Prosen came in the midfield and did great,” Bates added. “Mackenzie Tindel also played tough defense.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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