Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell
Plano West’s (23) Kiley Burns battle for control of the ball with Westlake Zayne Matulis (center) and (16) Grace Burr in the first half of the game during the Region II Girls 5A Soccer Tournament in Saturday.
The most sensational season in the Westlake girls soccer team’s history gave a sense of camaraderie and true character.
After 28 straight wins though, the No. 2 team in Texas fell to the state’s No. 1 ranked team – Plano West – in the regional finals Saturday in a 3-0 loss at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.
Both Plano West (26-0-2) and the Chaparrals entered the match with undefeated records and plenty of talent and fanfare. But the reigning Class 5A champion Lady Wolves were a class above the Chaps on Saturday, controlling possession and the tempo of play in a physical match.
At 28-1, this year’s Chaps finish with the best record in the Westlake girls soccer program’s history, coming one win short of making the state tournament.
“In some games, one team is just better than the other,” Westlake coach Rennie Rebe said in a quite matter of fact manner. “Today, that was the case; Plano West was just better. We tried really hard, but we just never had a chance.”
According to Rebe, this was the first time the Chaps were nationally ranked in the top 10 – making it all the way up to No. 1 at one point – and it was Westlake’s highest state ranking, as the Chaps climbed all the way to No. 2 this year.
“The kids are still a little disappointed, but they feel really proud of what they accomplished,” Rebe said. “And we were able to sustain it. With that kind of pressure, you never know if the kids can handle it and sustain, and they did … My kids didn’t quit. We hit every milestone this year, won tournaments, nationally ranked, state ranked highest we’ve ever had. We surpassed a lot of goals. The one game didn’t define our season, because it really is a marathon – we’ve been playing since December.”
In the first half, Plano West was the aggressor, getting two shots on goal that nearly went in but bounced off the post, while Westlake had trouble even getting a shot on goal in the first half. Rachel Grout scored on a pass headed over from Lakyn Pope at the 34-minute mark to go up 1-0, and another goal five minutes into the second half put the Chaps in a big hole considering the competition.
The Chaps had about 20 minutes of advantage to try and net a goal and the equalizer after a red card and automatic ejection put Plano West at 10 players to 11 for Westlake at the 68th minute. Yet, the Wolves were too much as they notched a third goal five minutes after the penalty for the 3-0 lead.
“They were big and strong and just pushed us around the whole game,” Westlake senior Christy Goldberg said. “We knew it was going to be tough to beat them, but it ended up being impossible. There was nothing we could do, especially on offense – we just never got anything going.”
Westlake had not trailed in a match prior to Friday’s regional semifinal against Sachse, in which the Chaps trailed twice before coming back to tie things up and, eventually, take the win in penalty kicks following two overtimes.
Seniors Goldberg, Hannah Meyer, Julia Thurston, Megan McGrath, Kate Walls and Alex Laguarta set the standard and the tone entering this season. With so much youth coming back next season, those seniors’ example can pave the way for Westlake to continue its successes.
“Our seniors did such a great job of setting a good example,” Rebe said. “It’s going to be a hard one to repeat. That definitely set a high bar, but that’s what has to happen … We don’t want to be a flash in the pan. We want to be successful every year.”
Plano West continues on as the favorite to win state once again, but Rebe believes if the circumstances were just right, the Chaps could have taken down the favorites. Regardless, she and the team have no regrets about the highly successful campaign.
“We’re still going to celebrate our season,” she said. “I’ve been doing this 15 years, and it’s hard to get to this point. You don’t all realistically have a chance to get to state every year. This year, as it went on, we realistically did have a chance at state … Every year is a fun year because you never know what’s going to happen and what combination of things will pop up. Last year, we were out in the quarterfinals. Literally, you can look at it and there are only four teams left. You can feel good about it even though you got knocked out.”
-Steve Habel contributed to this story