BY TONY EIERDAM
For the third season in a row, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams soccer team and Brewer played in the final match of the year in a winner-makes-the-playoffs match to qualify for the final district playoff spot.
And for the third consecutive year the Lady Rams got the job done.
Paced by a late penalty kick goal by senior Molly Clarke and stellar play in goal by freshman goalkeeper Brittany Smith, the Lady Rams outlasted the Brewer Lady Bears, 1-0, Tuesday night at Ram Stadium which earned MWHS a playoff spot while the Lady Bears miss the playoffs by one match for the third straight year.
Clarke, who Lady Rams head coach John Tuggle always chooses to execute penalty kicks, had a plan before kicking what turned out to be the match-winning, playoff-clinching goal.
“Any time you have a penalty kick you know the goalkeeper can’t read the shooter,” Clarke said. “I just kept my eyes down at the ball and picked a corner.
“The goalkeeper has no idea what the shooter is doing. I knew a taller goalie like Brewer’s would have a tough time getting to a (low) corner.”
The win seemed unlikely at the half despite the teams playing to a 0-0 tie.
The Lady Rams had a strong north wind at their backs, and although MWHS had an advantage, Brewer actually had better scoring chances in the first half.
Clarke said the team did not panic when forced to play into the wind in the critical second half.
“Even though we were going against the wind in the second half, it was still 0-0 and we know how to play into the wind,” Clarke said.
Tuggle said the style of play the Lady Rams employ makes going into the wind less of a factor.
“Going against the wind has never really been a huge factor for us with the way we play,” Tuggle said. “We knew they were going to eventually foul us, and we just wanted to get the ball in the box, and sure enough they fouled us in the box.
“I knew Molly would put the ball in the back of the goal. We actually practiced PKs (Monday) a lot during our workout.
“But we also got some great help from Brittany. She stepped in goal against Azle (on March 1) when our starting goalie got sick and we have never looked back since. We have a lot of confidence in Brittany.”
Despite facing the stiff wind, the Lady Rams had more second-half scoring chances than Brewer.
In a span of 11 minutes in the middle of the half, seniors Sami Stevens and Miriam Garcia had scoring chances in deep, but Brewer’s ‘keeper denied both opportunities.
The Lady Rams also failed to convert on a loose ball just five feel from the goal as the game remained scoreless.
But with 7:22 left to play, Brewer was called for a hand ball touch in the penalty box area as MWHS was awarded a penalty kick.
Clarke, keeping her head down, whistled a low line-drive kick that caught the back of the net just inside the left post. Brewer’s ‘keeper had jumped to her left and never had a chance to stop the shot.
The Lady Rams kept play in Brewer’s defensive end for the remaining seven minutes to seal the victory.
The MWHS ladies will play state-ranked No. 4 Denton Guyer in the bi-district playoffs. The match will be played either Monday or Tuesday. Check www.mineralwellsindex.com for location, date and start time.
Tuggle feels the Lady Rams have started a tradition that will only carry on next year when Mineral Wells and other Class 3A schools will play for a Class 3A state championship.
“I feel like we have a tradition and have set an expectation,” he said. “We are elated right now. We will play Denton Guyer in the first round of the playoffs and they are extremely good.
“They have dominated (District 11-4A), and we will have to step up and play well.”
The Lady Rams senior captain said the experience of needing to win the last match to gain a playoff berth has bonded the team.
“It is an incredible feeling going to the playoffs for the third year in a row,” Clarke said. “It would be nice if we didn’t have to wait until the last game every year, but it makes it more exciting, and it has made us come together as a team.”
Clarke’s late goal helps Lady Rams defeat Brewer, 1-0, to seal postseason berth
BY TONY EIERDAM
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