Coach Kendal Kirk led the 2015 North Lamar Pantherettes into the 4A Area Championship game looking for the first playoff win in the 15-year history of the program. It would not be an easy task, as their opponent, Ferris, finished the regular season ranked 14th in the state and easily defeated District 9 champion, Wilmer-Hutchins, 8-0 in the Bi-District round. On a sunny Friday afternoon with a gusting north wind ready to create havoc, the Pantherettes stepped onto the pitch with the confidence of a champion.
From the opening kickoff, North Lamar pushed the ball relentlessly into Ferris territory. With the wind at their back, the Pantherettes were determined to score. The aggressiveness paid off as less than ten minutes in, Karlee Alexander (14) launched a shot from 20-yards out that would only be stopped by the goal, giving North Lamar a 1-0 advantage with 30:46 left in the first half.
This seemed to energize the Ferris offense, led by standout Jessika Coronado (20), as they began to push the ball forward. Fortunately, the North Lamar defense anchored by Shaina Brown (5) in goal was able to turn back every attack resulting in 16 minutes of scoreless play. That all changed with 14:44 left in the half. After pushing the ball deep up the left side of the pitch, Madison Morrison crossed to Peyton Fleming coming into position dead center nine yards in front of the goal. Fleming was able to send off a fireball that made it past two defenders and the goalie to give North Lamar a 2-0 advantage that would hold up to halftime.
Coach Kirk knew that playing the second half facing a gusting wind that at times reached 30 mph would be challenging for both offense and defense to maintain this lead. Ferris started of the half with a sense of desperate focus that would increase throughout the first twenty minutes of the half. Their offense, led by Coronado, pushed deep into Pantherette territory making multiple shots on goal. While she made multiple saves, Brown was not alone on defense. Fronted by Daisy Rangel (6), Katie Kilcrease (22), Leslee Elliot (12) and Abby Lacey (4), the defense was able to to turn back wave after wave of Ferris offensive attacks.
The tempo of the game game seemed to change when the clock reached the twenty minute mark in the second half. It was almost as if North Lamar knew they were about to win and Ferris knew their season was coming to a close. The offensive intensity of the Ferris squad became frustrated with the defensive tenacity of the Pantherettes, and North Lamar took advantage. They began to push the ball up and take shots on goal. Forced to play defense, Ferris fought on but was unable to score.
With the 2-0 win, NL won the Area Championship and will advance to face Crandall in the Regional Quarterfinals early next week. Crandall (18-5-3) is the District 10 champion and advanced after victories over Dallas-Roosevelt and Paris. Coach Kirk was very pleased with the team play that the girls demonstrated and excited to have the first playoff victory in the history of NL soccer.