Two of the top teams in the state squared off last Wednesday, as the Pride traveled to Green Hope High School to face off against the Falcons in the third round of the 4A state playoffs.
Unfortunately, Leesville was unable to defeat the Falcons, who had not lost a game all year, losing 5-0 and being eliminated from the state playoffs.
Izzy Brown, a sophomore, started the scoring for the Falcons eight minutes into the game as she ripped a free kick, about 30 yards out, inside the near post.
Green Hope controlled the possession time in the first half until around the fifteen minute mark where the Pride began to push and show some life getting a couple chances before the end of the half.
Brooke Sroka, a junior, had a strike to the left corner of the goal, but it was not far enough to get past the outstretched arms of Lilly Dunn, the Green Hope goalkeeper.
Seconds before the end of the half, Leesville had a corner kick. Malina Pardo, a sophomore, lofted a great ball to Rachel Golden, a senior, who was able to get her head on it, but it missed just wide of the goal. Green Hope held a 1-0 lead at halftime.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw back and forth play from both teams.
It wasn’t until the 60th minute that Green Hope extended their lead to two goals when Grace Wagner, a junior, scored from inside the box.
Two minutes later Brown ripped a shot that went right through Brenna Murray’s hands, Leesville goalkeeper, giving the Falcons a huge 3-0 lead with less than twenty minutes remaining in the game.
All season long Leesville’s strength had been their defense, but tonight things weren’t clicking for the Pride, as Green Hope added two more goals to solidify the win.
Catherine Holbrook, a junior, made it a 4-0 lead as her throw-in went off of Golden’s head and into the goal. Audrey Cooke, a senior, tapped a goal in two minutes after Holbrook’s goal to finish off the game and helping the Falcons to a 5-0 win and advancing to the fourth round of the 4A state playoffs.
The Pride’s stellar season came to a tough ending as Green Hope came out in the second half hungry to put their opponent away and they did just that by scoring four more unanswered goals.
Leesville finished the season with a 19-3-2 overall record and finished second in the Cap-8 with an 11-2-1 record.
After a heartbreaking loss in the fourth round of the playoffs last year, a third round finish was not the goal to begin the season for the Pride, but the loss was easier to swallow this year knowing how great of a team Green Hope is.
“This season as a whole was really all about growth. After losing a lot of key seniors the year before, and having such a good run last year we had to focus on what we needed to do and how we were going to be successful as a team. We were a different team this year than from last year,” said Reagan Norvell, a junior.
The Pride lose four key senior players for next season, Rachel Golden, Cayley Kennedy, Avery Gardner, and Rebekah Bailey, who have had a huge impact on the program and leave behind a great legacy.
“As a senior, losing your last game is always the hardest, but hats off to Green Hope they played a great second half. Tonight just wasn’t our night,” said Golden.
Golden, Gardner, and Bailey will all continue their soccer careers in college at their respective universities.
Going forward, the program will look to a strong group of underclassmen, as well as a large senior class full of talent, skill and leadership.
“We will be a much less experienced next year losing key people in our back line and midfield, needing people to step up and fill those spots. The quicker we can mature and make those adjustments, the better our chances of going farther next year will be,” said Norvell.