GIRLS SOCCER: Indians back in regional semi after ousting Spartans

Published 12:26 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

By Michael Sudhalter

Special to The News

HOUSTON — Libbie LeJeune made the last of her game-high 10 saves on a free kick with 1:10 remaining in Friday’s UIL Class 5A Region III quarterfinals to seal the Indians’ trip to the regional tournament next weekend.

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“I just knew how to make a clean catch,” the Indians senior goalkeeper said after the Port Neches-Groves girls soccer team’s 2-1 victory over Porter at Galena Park ISD Stadium. “It was a team effort. We had one job, and that was to stop [Porter junior captain] Kelly Rodriguez.”

PNG junior Mia Delgadillo played a key role in the Indians’ 2-1 5A Region III quarterfinal win over Porter on Friday. (Michael Sudhalter/Special to The News)

One of PNG head coach Aimee Bates’ best decisions may have come long before Friday’s match.

In the fall of 2015, Bates convinced Lejeune, who had established herself as a volleyball phenom, to join the soccer team.

“I remember when she told me she’d join the soccer team,” Bates said of the goalkeeper who has allowed just one goal this postseason. “It was like a Christmas present arrived a little early that year.”

The Indians (23-3-3) defeated Porter (16-7-2) in the regional quarterfinals for the second straight year. PNG earned the win, despite being outshot, 13-10.

“Tonight’s victory was one of the sweetest victories we’ve had,” said Bates, in her 17th season as head coach. “It was a hard-fought win. Our defense did a great job of stopping them and holding them.”

Now, PNG is headed to the regional semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. They’ll face Tomball, a 1-0 winner over Leander Rouse, at 11 a.m. Friday at Turner Stadium in Humble.

Jillian Flores, one of six seniors on the PNG roster, scored the first goal in the first half for a 1-0 halftime lead.

“Flores always plays with a lot of passion and intensity,” Bates said. “I am super proud of her.”

The Indians scored a second goal (2-0) with 34:34 in the second half when Porter scored in its own goal, but Flores and juniors Izzy Volk and Mia Delgadillo played an important role in putting PNG in position to score.

Porter’s Rodriguez scored a goal with 10 minutes remaining in the game, cutting the lead in half (2-1).

“That made me nervous,” Bates said. “It was definitely a momentum shift, and we responded by dropping our forwards.”

The Indians have never advanced beyond the regional semifinals, but this team is confident that they will accomplish that feat.

“The future is bright,” Bates said. “Every game is tough.”

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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