Lady Hornets return to playoffs for second time in 11 years

Mar. 22—HUNTSVILLE — After ending the season last year with one district win, Lady Hornet soccer went back to the drawing board with its first-year head coach Michael Van Wagner.

Huntsville took the 1-9 record and turned things around in Van Wagner's second year as the Lady Hornets embraced the 'underdog' role.

With the chip placed on the shoulder, the Lady Hornets had six seniors who led the charge to an 11-7-2 season, a 5-4-1 district record, and third place in the district.

They also earned a spot in the class 5A playoffs.

"I feel like for most of the year we've had an underdog mentality," Van Wagner said. "We have always been at the bottom of the bag, and last year was last place in the district. Everyone has kind of looked down on us and that is who we are as a team. We are the underdog and we are going to fight to win."

Huntsville has six seniors on the pitch who have endured several up-and-downs. The six seniors were freshmen in the program when they last made the playoffs in 2021.

Since then, the program had a coaching change and combined for nine wins over the two seasons.

With the help of Hannah Heinemann, Dora Salazar, Betsy Gallegos, Madison Elkins, Avery Smith and Caylee Cochran all taking on leadership on the pitch and in the classroom.

"The senior group is amazing and nearly all of them have straight A's. This year they have stepped up and it shows. They come to practice, are ready on game days and ask questions on how to get better. It is a good group of girls," Van Wagner said.

Huntsville heads into the playoff game after nearly a week off with the Spring Break holiday.

The Lady Hornets returned to practice on Thursday and Friday after a few days to rest their legs and are working to get refocused.

Luckily, they had an opportunity to have a warm-up game against Lake Creek this week to prepare themselves for the postseason. While the results didn't go their way, it gave them a chance to get back into live soccer action and get back to game speed with a playoff game looming.

"It's hard when you have a break like that to regain focus. During the warm-up match, the girls came out strong against Lake Creek," Van Wagner said. "The second half we moved people around and Lake Creek took charge. We needed to see how people fared in different positions."

Now, the Lady Hornets have the opportunity to keep proving themselves to the soccer community.

In the Class 5A, region II bi-district round of the playoffs, the Lady Hornets will face the second-place team from District 15. Huntsville will battle Mount Pleasant at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Rose Stadium in Tyler.