GIRLS SOCCER: Indians will ‘talk about reloading’

Published 5:53 pm Saturday, April 14, 2018

HUMBLE — Moments after Port Neches-Groves was eliminated from the 5A Region III tournament, 17th-year coach Aimee Bates didn’t want to think next season.

“It’s hard to move on right now,” Bates said. “We’re going to celebrate everything we’ve done this year and try to remember the good times and the highlights of the season.

“When we get back to school after the weekend, we’ll talk about reloading and where we want to be next year.”

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The Indians (23-3-4) can celebrate quite a bit. They won at least a share of a district championship for the 10th time and went back to the regional semifinals for the fourth year in a row.

They have yet to get past that point.

“This team, we thought, was going to be the team to break through,” senior center back Kacie Wallace said. “We thought this was going to be the game. We were here freshman year. Now we’re here senior year. This is our moment.”

Each year, though, the Indians left a mark for the next team to build on, Wallace said.

This year’s Indians prided themselves on defense. Friday’s 0-0 deadlock with Tomball — the Cougars won 4-1 in a shootout — was the 23rd clean sheet for the Indians this season.

PNG can thank Libbie LeJeune in large part for that. The senior goaltender made two game-saving stops on the same play inside the 6-yard box with 40 seconds left.

“Defense is definitely one of our main concerns,” Wallace said. “It starts with our forwards taking off the defenders for the other team. That’s where it starts. Once it gets back to us, we know we have to pressure and get to the ball as fast as we can and get it back to our forwards.”

Both teams Friday found themselves in a seemingly even battle for possession even with the forwards in short range. While PNG held Tomball scoreless until the penalty-kick phase, the Indians were also held scoreless in the 5A Region III semis for a fourth year in a row, save for Kaylee Landry’s shootout make.

The shootout was held with the wind going toward the goaltenders. The Indians had the wind in their direction for the second half, but couldn’t capitalize.

“The wind was carrying the ball in ways it had never carried the ball before,” Wallace said. “It was like the wind was another player we were playing against. The scoring chances are definitely harder. We were having to run through the ball instead of playing them down, and that was the hardest part.”

Kingwood Park beat Tomball 2-1 in Saturday’s championship round and advances to the state semifinals in Georgetown.

Outside backs Mattie McGraw, Grace Reed and Wallace, midfielder Mackenzie Tindel, forward Jillian Flores and LeJeune are the six seniors who finished their high school careers Friday, but Bates has a deep group of underclassmen — three freshmen, four sophomores and six juniors — who’ll try to push PNG farther in the playoffs in 2019.

“I think the people next year, I hope they get back to this point,” Wallace said. “They’re going to be working their butts off for it. I know they are. I just hope they can do it and press past this point.”

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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