After a disappointing district season, the NL Panther soccer team had a few weeks to prepare for the playoff tournament. Coach Aaoron Welch spent the time focusing on the basics of ball handling, ball movement and disciplined play. The efforts would show on Friday night as the Panthers took on Crandall in the Area championship. Crandall came into the match as the 3rd place team from District 10 after beating District 9 runner-up Pinkston in last week's Bi-district match.
The match kicked off at 8:00pm in Greenville with a trip to the Regional Quarterfinals awaiting the winner. NL took control of the match early with a goal by Kshatiz Basnet (10) in the first 20 minutes of play. The rest of the night would be a true test for goalie Chayanne Peralta and the Panther defense. Peralta made multiple highlight saves in the first half to preserve the 1-0 NL lead.
Crandall's ball movement and team speed pushed the Panthers to the limit in the second half. In spite of heroic play by Peralta and the defense, Crandall's furious attack was overwhelming as they scored three goals in quick order to take control of the match. NL pushed into scoring territory several times but the team speed and stifling defense by Crandall kept them from scoring. As the clock reached 00:00, the match and the season closed for the Panthers with a 3-1 loss.
When asked about his thoughts on the season, Coach Welch stated "I'm just really proud of the 6 seniors. They set an outstanding example for our large group of younger players to strive for in the years to come. Not only by their play on the field but by the way they carried themselves at practice, in the hallways and classes at school, and in our community. We had 6 true leaders to follow this season. It will be hard to watch those guys graduate. I will definitely miss each one of them. But....we have a lot of young talent to try and fill their shoes next season and that is always promising."
In other matches involving District 11 teams, Paris lost to Kaufman 2-1, Princeton lost to Ferris 3-1 and Bonham lost to Wilmer-Hutchins in a shootout. All four District 11 teams were eliminated from the playoffs.
Thanks to Coach Welch , Coach Pointer and the team for a memorable season. Best of luck to the seniors and, for the rest of the team, we look forward to seeing you on the pitch next year.