GIRLS SOCCER: Mansfield scores early, tops Odessa High for area playoff victory

ABILENE It was a hole the Odessa High girls soccer team couldn’t dig itself out of.

The Lady Bronchos allowed two goals in the first 11 minutes of their Class 6A area round playoff game against Mansfield and couldn’t recover — ending their season.

The Lady Tigers scored two more goals in the game to take down the Lady Bronchos 4-1 at Shotwell Stadium.

From the outset, Mansfield looked to spread out Odessa High’s defense to create seams for its strikers to run into and get an open shot on net.

That mindset paid off three minutes into the game when a pass from the midfield sprung a Lady Tigers’ attack — forcing the Lady Bronchos to commit a foul just outside of the penalty box.

On the ensuing free kick, Mansfield’s Hannah Webb curled the ball around the Odessa High wall and into the bottom-right corner of the net.

The Lady Tigers doubled their lead eight minutes later when the ball was crossed from near the corner flag into the goalkeeper’s box and the Lady Bronchos (17-6-2) couldn’t clear it.

That led to Mansfield’s Jules Shahi easily powering a loose ball into the top of the net to double her team’s lead.

“I think we started off a little sluggish,” Odessa High head coach Cecilia Kellar said. “We let them come in and set the pace of the game at first and put ourselves in a hole that we were trying to dig out of the rest of the game and we weren’t able to.”

The rest of the first half saw a few chances from Odessa High, but it couldn’t unlock the Mansfield defense.

Lady Tigers’ head coach George Velten said his team didn’t scout the Lady Bronchos a lot because of how far away Odessa is from the Metroplex.

“We decided to come out and keep the ball a little bit and try to maintain possession and put them under some pressure,” Velten said about his team’s strategy. “That really helped the girls’ confidence.

“I just think maybe we’re just a little bit too experienced going forward, but I thought Odessa played a great game.”

The second half saw much of the same back-and-forth play until Mansfield extended its lead twice on goals from Jaci Rozear and Alexis Thomas.

The Lady Bronchos scored their lone goal of the game with less than a minute left in regulation when Stephanie Renteria lofted the ball over the Mansfield goalkeeper’s head and under the cross bar.

The final whistle blew soon after bringing Odessa High’s season to an end.

“It was tough, (Mansfield) is a good quality team,” Kellar said. “It’s good experience for us. We had a lot of young kids out there.”

Odessa High was attempting to reach the regional quarterfinals for the first time in program history. Instead the Lady Bronchos tied the marks they set in 2012 and 2014 by bowing out in the area round.

A win over Mansfield would have been the program’s first playoff victory over a Metroplex team since its playoff debut in 2012 when it beat North Crowley.

Kellar said her team needs to get rid of the intimidation factor of playing someone from the Dallas-area.

“I think it was a lot of things,” Kellar said about her team’s play in the game. “It’s not just so much in our attacking third that we didn’t click. I think there was lots of places on the field that we failed to click tonight.

“It should sting, anytime you lose, you want it to hurt a little bit because it means something to you and all the work you put in. You want to be able to use it in the future to fuel the determination and to make sure to do better and raise the bar for the team and the program.”

This was the last high school soccer game for several Odessa High seniors.

“We’re like a family,” Lady Bronchos’ senior midfielder Candace Mireles said. “I’m glad we got this far and we had a successful season. We wanted to get farther than last year and we accomplished that.

Mansfield (19-2-1) will face Keller early next week with a trip to the Region I-6A Tournament in Midland on the line.

>> Follow Eric Blum on Twitter @EricBlumOA