Cove fights valiantly but falls to Irving MacArthur 3-0 in bi-district playoffs
By TJ Maxwell
CHINA SPRING – The young Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs’ soccer team gave it all they had in their 3-0 bi-district playoff loss to Irving MacArthur Thursday night at China Spring High School. The Lady Dawgs made their fourth-consecutive trip to the playoffs for a new school record.
With the exception of one busted play in the first half that allowed MacArthur sophomore forward Adriana Padilla to score on a wide-open tap in at the 12-minute mark, the Lady Dawgs’ defense kept the District 7-6A champions in check for most of the first half for a 1-0 score after 40 minutes of action.
“I think we got a little bit of a late start and we gave up fluke goal that stunned us a little,” said Copperas Cove head soccer coach Pat Rox. “But the girls played through it and we got it to halftime 1-0.
“In the second half we started slow again. If we would have played the whole game the way we played the last 20 minutes, we might have had a different outcome. I don’t want to take anything away from Irving (MacArthur). They are a good team. They have girls on their that handle the ball as well as anybody we’ve seen. They played well tonight and deserved to win.”
Assistant coach Chelsea Letzer-Spoor liked the fight her team showed in the loss.
“They never gave up and that’s something that we can be proud of,” she said. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t go our way tonight. I hate that it ended this way for the seniors but I’m proud that they didn’t give up.”
Cove’s first attempt on goal came from senior Kailey Walker on a long shot in the 23rd minute.
The Lady Cardinals had several more opportunities in the first half with four corner kicks by senior Sara Alcala, a penalty kick by junior Ryanne Reno and shots on goal by freshman Breana Fuentes and Alcala.
The Lady Cardinals padded their lead to begin the second half with a solo scramble goal by sophomore Heaven Barrera in the 44th minute for a 2-0 MacArthur lead.
“MacArthur did a really good job of pushing up with a 3-4,” said Rox. “They were either playing a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3. We couldn’t tell all the time because they were pushing so many people forward.”
Another misdirection play by the Lady Cardinals got the Cove defense out of position before Padilla scored the final goal of the contest in the 55th minute for a 3-0 MacArthur lead.
Coach Rox didn’t even have to tell his team what they needed to do at halftime because they already knew.
“We just told them, ‘we’re not playing to our abilities,’” he said. Honestly, we didn’t have to tell them that. This team has taken more ownership than any other team I’ve had. They go to the sideline at halftime and they are making all the corrections we’ve been talking about and we just add to it as need be. This is a special team.”
The Lady Dawgs really seemed to pick up the intensity over the last 20 minutes of action.
“I think it was maybe the realization that this could really be it,” said Letzer-Spoor. “Our seniors are the foundation of this team. They’ve been to the playoffs four year in a row. They are the first class to do that, so I think everybody decided that they wanted to play for the seniors.”
Another long shot on goal by Walker missed its mark as did a penalty kick by Walker in the 67th minute that sailed high of the goal.
Cove junior Jordyn Seibel also took a shot on goal in the 75th minute.
Cove junior goal keeper had six saves in the second half to go with her two first-half saves.
The Lady Dawgs lose seniors Walker, Ariana Wilson, Nicole Evans and Ja’Nia Johnson to graduation but will return a junior-heavy class of 14 players to next year’s squad.
“We’re only losing four seniors, but it seems like we’re losing 40,” said Rox. “We’re going to miss them. They’ve been great girls and a pleasure to coach.”
Letzer-Spoor echoed those sentiments.
“It’s going to be tough,” she said. “They are the first group that I got to work with, so they are definitely super special to me. The leadership they’ve shown, I don’t know if we can match it next year, but we’ll try.”
“Kailey is the heart of the team,” added Rox. “She plays 100 percent all day every day. She went down late in the game and I didn’t even give a thought to getting her out. I knew she wasn’t going to come out because she doesn’t come out of games.
“Ja’Nia has been a stalwart in the back. We moved her up front and she showed us she could play there, too.”
Last year on the back line we had a real weakness where anybody could break through and Ariana pretty much sealed that up,” he added. “She was our eraser back there. If something got through, she would get it out of the way for us.
“Nicole played wherever we wanted her to play – left, right, midfield, center-mid – or we would put her up at striker. She filled every one of the jobs like a pro. You just really can’t put it into words to express how much they mean to you.”