Lady Indians finish season with deep playoff run, district championship
Published 12:34 am Tuesday, April 18, 2023
PORT NECHES — Rather than flash, the Port-Neches Groves Lady Indians soccer team uses expert fundamentals to fuel success.
“We wanted to out possess them,” said coach Aimee Bates. “We kept track of how many times we had three or five strings of passes, or how many passes we had that led up to this goal. The way we won was very important early in the season.”
PNG won that way a lot, finishing 24-4-1 overall with a 12-1-1 district record, and earning the title of district champions.
“This team was driven from the very start,” Bates said.
Though, before that incredible season could be written in the history books, the team needed a game plan.
Bates met with the senior leaders before the season, who expressed a desire for revenge and the district championship.
Last season the girls were beat in the first round of the playoffs, losing to an underdog as the No. 1 seed.
“It hurt,” Bates said. “It hurt really bad, but that early exit from the playoffs drove the team’s success this year. So, with that fuel and mindset, goals were set. The first goal? Win a tournament. They didn’t have to wait long to see it come to fruition. Early in the season, PNG went into Georgetown and swept the entire tournament, where they beat Boerne High School in the process, who eventually made it to the state championship this year.
The mindset was set in stone, and the PNG girls went on a tear throughout the season. At one point winning 11 games in a row.
No truly strong team achieves greatness without a small setback, though. Despite a late season 1-0 loss to Barbers Hill, Bates believes the defeat was beneficial in helping the players prepare for the playoffs, saying, “I’m a better coach coming off a loss. I’m angry, and we’re more driven.”
Senior captain Marlee Sonnier weighed in on that pivotal moment, as well, “I think the loss made us humble.”
After that, the PNG didn’t lose another regular season game, and the stage was set for the postseason.
Bates made it clear that there is a shift going into the playoffs.
“During the season, we’re still trying to play what our style of play looks like. In playoffs, an ugly win is still a win,” she said.
Throughout the season, the team focused on possession-oriented play, and the main goal was to out-possess opponents. PNG made adjustments as needed, such as when a starting center back was injured in the third round and a freshman had to step in.
Each win was a team win.
Then, in forth round season-ending heartbreak finally struck. In a 2-1 loss against Belton High, the Lady Indians had to say goodbye to the electric ride they’d been on for the last four months.
The story wasn’t all bleak, though. Bates highlighted the team’s determination and effort in that game.
“When you look at the final 15 minutes of that game, we out-possessed them, we out-shot them, we were all over them,” she said.
Looking ahead to next season, Bates is optimistic, with all but three girls returning.
She believes that the team will be more seasoned and hopes to make a state run.
Sonnier, the captain, also expressed confidence, saying “I know these juniors will step up to fill the senior spots and lead well.”
With most of this year’s young team returning next season, the outlook is positive, and the team is focused on making a state run.
Written by Clayton Eaves