Sport

Katy ISD boys and girls soccer teams face each other after dominating

In football, sending four teams to the third round of the playoffs is a sure sign of a district’s strength.

District 19-6A fútbol took it a step further.

The powerhouse soccer grouping sent eight clubs to Tuesday’s Class 6A regional quarterfinals – all four girls and all four boys.

Katy ISD supplied seven teams. Strake Jesuit, the 19-6A boys champion, was the other one.

“I don’t know how often that’s happened,” Katy Taylor girls coach Mark Kluppel said.

“It shows that we have a really tough district. There are only a couple of other districts in the state that have all four representatives in (the regional quarterfinals), on either side. The hardest thing about being in our district is just surviving it, but it does get you battle ready for the playoffs.”

In this case, that meant eventually battling each other.

Taylor shocked 19-6A girls champ Seven Lakes 2-1 in the second half of a Katy ISD doubleheader at Rhodes Stadium, with the Cinco Ranch boys surviving Seven Lakes 2-1 in the early match.

The Cinco Ranch girls beat Tompkins 3-0 and the Strake and Tompkins boys met again in a doubleheader at Tompkins.

“It’s extremely tough, and any time you have to play a team three times in a year, you always worry about it, and Seven Lakes has been tough all year – both times we played them in district and here again,” Cinco Ranch boys coach Mason Whitfield said. “It’s a dogfight right to the end.”

The Spartans were active early in both halves, taking the first shot on goal in the seventh minute, which Patrick Hillyard stopped, and scoring the first goal off Raul Ekmeiro’s foot in the 42nd minute.

But the Cougars (17-2-5) responded quickly, with Brady Johnston supplying the equalizer two minutes later.

“It’s huge, just the momentum shift again, because had we waited they could have easily put in another one,” Whitfield said. “They had the wind, they had the momentum, (so) putting that (equalizer) in gave us that advantage and that confidence to stay in it, and the boys kept fighting.”

They didn’t have to fight into overtime.

Donnovan Smith, aggressive throughout, beat keeper Connor Paxton, who came out of the goal, for a 2-1 lead in the 74th minute.

Whitfield checked the flag to make sure Smith wasn’t offsides, then leaned in eagerly.

“The flag was down, so at that point I knew we had a chance, (and) the keeper came out and Donovan finished it,” he said.

“He’s been doing that all year.”

The Spartans girls did it all year, even with a new coach, clinching their second district championship in three years under Kaitlyn Eidson, a Cinco Ranch grad who replaced longtime coach Amy Davis.

But Kluppel, who coached against Eidson when she still was playing at Cinco, had the upperhand in the playoffs. Shelby Wilkins and Natalia DeGeeter scored in the second half, lifting fourth-seeded Taylor to its first win over the rival Spartans in the third meeting between them this season.

“We want to beat each other as much as we want to advance,” Kluppel said.

Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.

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