Set piece success sends Maidens past Athens and into regional tournament

Apr. 2—TYLER — Jacksonville dug deep into its bag of tricks to come up with a way to defeat Athens, 4-1, in a Class 4A, Region II Quarterfinal that was played Tuesday night at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler.

Trailing 1-0, the Fightin Maidens (22-3-1) scored on three corner kicks in the first half to move in front 3-1 at the break. Jacksonville, who advances to play Celina in a regional semi-final match at 4 p.m. Friday, tallied 10 corner kicks in the first 40:00 of play. The Lady Hornets didn't have a single corner in the opening half.

"Set pieces can change games and we have really been emphasizing those set pieces lately," Jacksonville head girl's soccer coach Colten McCown said.

Evelyn Lara knocked in a deflection of a corner kick to enable the Maidens to tie the match, 1-1.

At the 13:43 mark of the first half, Lauren Wade chipped in a shot from close range that originated from a corner kick, which gave Jacksonville its first lead of the evening and ultimately turned out to be the match-winning goal.

The Maidens' ninth corner kick of the half drove the ball down to the goal mouth where Jewel McCullough was waiting to do the honors with 2:03 left in the first half.

Despite having the stiff north wind at their backs in the second half, the Lady Hornets were only able to come up with one shot on goal, which Jacksonville goal keeper Emily Barerra took care of. Barerra had two saves in the contest.

Wade took a pass from Victoria Villanueva from the left flank and booted it past Colbie Garner, the Athens keeper, with 1:11 left in regulation, for the final goal of the match.

After winning their first-two playoff matches by 8-0 scores, Tuesday's match had a different complexion for the Maidens.

"Playing in a different stadium, the fans can be bigger and sometimes I think we get lost in the moment," McCown said. "Once we calmed down and started to play good fundamental soccer like we are capable of, everything was fine."

Athens, who ends the year with a 20-4-3 worksheet, took advantage of some shaky early defensive play by the Maidens to score the first goal of the night, which came on a shot from 5 yards out by Jazmin Rodriquez.

"Athens played really well," McCown said. "They were athletic and had lots of speed and they were dangerous.

"Once our defense stepped up, I thought our girls responded well."

Wade echoed her coach's sentiments.

"This team (Athens) was a lot tougher than the other teams that we have been playing (in post season)," Wade said. "They had different formations that we were not used to seeing.

"I don't know if maybe we were nervous early on because the last time we played in this stadium we lost to Celina (last year's regional semi-final). Once we settled down and started to focus on what we were supposed to do, we were ok."

Jacksonville will be making its first-ever back-to-back regional tournament appearances and Wade said that she can't wait.

"This means everything to me," she said.‑"I grew up watching the Maidens play in the Tomato Bowl and I always wanted to be a part of it and to be a part of this team is really special."