Round Rock girls soccer season ends in regional final

Round Rock’s girls soccer program reached new heights this season while earning a spot in the regional final for the first time, but making history couldn’t help the Dragons hold off talented and tenacious Houston Memorial.

Memorial snapped Round Rock’s string of six consecutive shutout wins with a 3-1 victory in the Class 6A, Region II final on a blustery afternoon at the Reeves Athletic Complex. The Mustangs became the first team all season to score three goals against the Dragons.

“They were really good,” said Round Rock senior Grace Greenly, a team captain who held the Dragons’ regional finalist trophy in her arms after the match. “They were strong, and they were really fast.”

But Greenly, who will play at Mary Hardin-Baylor University next season, said the accomplishments of her team outweighed the disappointment of Saturday’s loss.

“We’ve talked about legacy all season,” she said. “We’ve talked about the next four years and not just this year. And I’m so proud of what we did this season. I think we set things up for the future.”

Photos: Round Rock girls soccer vs. Houston Memorial on April 14, 2018

Memorial (23-1-0) is making its own history while qualifying for the state tournament for the first time. Coach Lindley Amarantos, who has been with the program for 15 years as either an assistant or head coach, said her team began thinking about reaching state since falling to eventual champion Hendrickson in penalty kicks in a 2017 second-round playoff game.

“That loss has been pushing us all season,” she said. “Our first day back in the weight room, the girls were saying, ‘Hey, we are going to state this season.’ And to have this dream realized, it’s amazing.”

The talented Mustangs’ side includes seven collegiate commitments, including a Texas pledge, sophomore midfielder Kelsey Hranicky. By the end of the first half, the brisk north wind might have just earned a scholarship offer from a college program. Round Rock (19-3-3) couldn’t play anything through the air with any consistency, and the Mustangs took full advantage of the 20-mph gusts by playing the ball to the foot and controlling possession.

Their first-half goal came in the 11th minute when junior Grace Collins fired a free kick 40 yards into the box and senior Grace Yochum rose above a scrum of players and headed home a perfectly placed shot.

In the 50th minute, Yochum returned the favor when she slotted a pass to Collins, who got past the defense and flicked home a shot from 15 yards out past onrushing keeper Lauren Traywick.

Undaunted by their first two-goal deficit of the season, the Dragons cranked up the pressure and produced a series of corner kicks midway through the second half. The fourth and final corner paid off when Christine Esparza squeezed off a shot in front of the goal and Round Rock defender Katie Leal deflected the ball into the net to trim Memorial’s lead to 2-1.

But Collins, a TCU pledge who dominated long stretches of the match, had an answer. Five minutes after the Dragons’ goal, the junior zipped a cross just past Traywick to Alina Khan, who tapped ball into open net.

The goal all but sealed the win for Memorial and ended Round Rock’s historic season.

“I told the girls that this is not a time to be sad,” said first-year Round Rock coach Chad Aldrich, who coached Vandegrift’s boys last season. “It’s a time to celebrate what they’ve accomplished. It’s hard to find all the soccer stats, but I’m willing to bet that they broke all kinds of Rock records concerning goals and goals against. And that’s playing against the greatest teams in the state in nondistrict and through our district season.

“I’m real proud of all these girls, especially the seniors, for building this foundation we now have.”

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