GIRLS SOCCER: Indians stopped short of regional final again

Published 2:27 pm Friday, April 13, 2018

HUMBLE — The 23rd regulation-overtime shutout for Port Neches-Groves did not get the Indians to their first regional final.

For the fourth year in a row, the 5A Region III semifinal round was not nice to them.

Libbie LeJeune made back-to-back saves in the box against Tomball’s Jessica Martorelli with 40 seconds remaining in regulation to keep the Indians alive, but after a scoreless overtime, Tomball owned the shootout 4-1 Friday at Turner Stadium to end the Indians’ season.

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“Like all season, we were well-prepared and gave great effort and great heart. Things just didn’t go our way,” Indians coach Aimee Bates said. “We just couldn’t score. We wanted it so bad, we believed in it. We went into it confident and did everything right, and when it came time, it didn’t fall our way. The wind was a major factor.”

LeJeune had one thing in her mind when she stepped up to make the crucial stops late in the second half.

“I didn’t want it to be my last game,” LeJeune said, her tears still streaming down minutes after Tomball’s winning kick. “My soccer career has been awesome, and I just didn’t want it to end.”

Awesome it was. LeJeune, a volleyball and soccer standout who will not play collegiately, joined the Indians soccer program as a sophomore and started all three years in the net.

Elaine Griffin, Martorelli, Payton Doiron and Courtney Heckt scored against LeJeune in the shootout. Tomball’s Priscella Caruso stopped shots by Jillian Flores and Mackenzie Tindel, but Kaylee Landry’s make forced Heckt to attempt the Cougars’ fourth shot.

“We practice them a lot,” LeJeune said of penalty kicks. “I guess you could say it’s all in your head. After fighting for however many minutes — 80 plus 20? — you know, it’s just hard.”

LeJeune had 10 saves through overtime. Caruso had nine.

The Indians (23-3-4) had the wind going in their direction in the second half, but possession for both teams was about even. PNG had four shots on goal saved, including two in the 73rd and 74th minutes.

“We thought if we could stop them at zero with the wind, we could get the win, but it didn’t work out in our favor,” LeJeune said.

LeJeune also had an in-goal save with 7 minutes remaining in the second 10-minute overtime period.

“It has been a season of defense,” Cougars coach Martha Freisleben said. “We have struggled offensively. We had an injury that hurt us in the beginning of the season, but these kids have battled. I’m sort of a defensive-minded coach, and so, they’ve taken a cue from me and know that we can’t lose if they don’t score.”

Tomball (22-0-5) which went 11-0-3 in winning District 20-5A, found a way to win matches late in the second half of the season despite not losing in regulation or overtime, Freisleben said.

“It’s just been a fun ride,” she added.

Tomball will take on Kingwood Park, a 4-3 winner over Cedar Park behind Allie Byrd’s hat trick, on Saturday morning for a trip to the state semifinals in Georgetown. It’s a level PNG has never reached in its soccer history, thanks in large part to College Station (2-0 scores in 2015 and 2017), A&M Consolidated (1-0 in 2016) and Tomball in the round before.

“It’s just difficult to score,” Bates said about the regional semifinal woes. “I just wanted PNG to score that first goal and go from there.”

Sunday: How the Indians plan to build on this season

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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