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Plenty more goals in sight for PNG team that clinched district

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country in 2020, the Port Neches-Groves girls soccer team was 10-0 in district. On Saturday, PNG defeated Barbers Hill 1-0, clinching the district title for 11th time in 13 seasons.

In the final week of the regular season, head coach Aimee Bates said the team sat down and revisited goals set at the beginning of the season.

“We are as hungry as ever to make it an undefeated district championship,” she said. “We set out to score 100 goals this season and we are at 84 and we want to match that. We also want to put a couple more shutouts to our record. I think we have 14 shutouts.”

The Indians are getting respect statewide, as the University Scholastic League rankings show PNG at No. 5.

“That is great, but it puts a target on your back,” Bates said. “We have to be happy with that respect, but we also have to be hungry, too.”

Bates said winning district with two games remaining feels great.

“It is good to know that COVID has not interrupted our season and we are still competing and playing. I feel blessed that we are able to do that. It feels like every month our team chemistry gets better and we are stronger than ever. Our play has been a little inconsistent, but I am very happy about the direction.”

During the last week of the season, Bates wants her team to improve on combination play in the final third. When asked about who might be an MVP for the team, Bates said PNG’s depth makes the team so good.

“Teams that have one single player are teams we can stop,” she said. “If you man mark our highest goal scorer, we have two other scorers who are three goals behind her. We have an attacking mid that can come up through the gaps and score. I don’t feel like we have a single MVP. I feel like you can go through my whole line and find MVPs. Every game, someone steps up.”

Opposing teams should not expect to see backups from PNG even though district has been clinched, Bates said.

“We are going to play the same,” she said. “I want our flow and level of play to increase. I am not trying to throw new things at them. We are doing the same things and getting better at them. Even when we go play other teams and we are up, I tell them we are not playing people out of position. In the first half, we did. We tried to get some people goals, but now, it is about rhythm and flow. When we get up, we are still going to challenge ourselves.”

PNG closes out its season at Memorial Friday. The match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.