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Tricky postseason match-ups await Port Neches-Groves, Nederland

Port Neches-Groves and Nederland girls soccer teams play their first round playoff games Thursday.

The top-seeded Indians travel to Texas City to take on the Stingarees at 7 p.m.

Nederland girls play at 5:30 p.m. against Manvel at Barbers Hill. The game is the first of a double header with the Nederland boys team, who play the same opponent.

Despite being ranked No. 5 in the state, PNG coach Aimee Bates said her team is not taking Texas City lightly.

“They run a 3-5-2,” she said. “They have two that we are going to deal with on the back. We have been dealing more with three forwards in our district. They have a good midfielder, who is a special player that we will be aware of.”

Bates said she believes the matchup favors PNG.

“I like our speed against them,” she said. “I like our chances going into this.”

Those who have followed the Indians all season might compare TC to Crosby and Galena Park, Bates said.

In the four games PNG played against Crosby and Galena Park, the Indians won by a combined score of 22-0.

Ever since a Port Neches-Groves soccer player was hurt in a warm-up game years ago, head coach Aimee Bates has traded any potential value added for late-season games for shaking off rust for a healthy team.

“I don’t like them, personally,” Bates said. “I would just rather warm up and practice and do things on my own. If you lose, you can go into the playoffs with low confidence. If you win, you can have false confidence. I feel like it is not worth it. We did district and now is time for the playoffs.”

While it did not play a warm-up game, PNG has been rusty in practice, Bates said.

“The first practice after Spring Break is generally not good,” she said. “They are back in school and they drug through the day. Our athletic period is the last of the day. They were a little tired. We got work out of them. We will be ready to roll Thursday.”

Marlee Sonnier, Abby Reeves and Tori Cutright lead the team in scoring. Sonnier finished the regular season with 28 goals, followed by Reeves (18) and Cutright (12), who leads the team with 18 assists.

Bates said the ability to distribute the workload adds pressure to opposing defenses.

“That gives us a major edge,” she said. “If you decide to focus on one player, the others have the opportunity to show what they can do. We work every day on taking quick shots and putting it far post and putting it out of the keeper’s reach. We want to maximize every opportunity.”

The Indians defense might be more impressive than the offensive output this year. The team’s depth allows them to regularly rotate players without losing much, if any, continuity.

“It is hard to be a defender,” Bates said. “You can play great for 79 minutes and make that one mistake and it slips through your hands and can be seen as a bad game. My defense has played well for all 80 minutes. The fact they have only given up nine goals shows how tremendous they are. They give us confidence going into the playoffs knowing we can stop good teams from scoring.”

The Bulldogs enter the post season third in the district. Nederland ended the regular season with a record of 14-6 (8-4) in district play.

The Bulldogs won five of their last seven games heading into the playoffs.

Manvel finished the season 14-6 (14-3 in district).

For more playoff coverage, read https://www.panews.com/2021/03/24/nederland-png-ready-for-playoffs/