A season that started with no victories over the first five games now finds the Brownwood Lady Lions on the brink of a feat never before accomplished in the soccer program’s brief history.
With a victory in Friday’s 5:30 p.m. regular season finale against Lorena at Gordon Wood Stadium, the Lady Lions would secure at least a share of their first district championship.
“The improvement they’ve made from day one until now is pretty remarkable,” said Lady Lions first-year head coach J.B. Gibbs. “At the start of the season things weren’t so good and part of that was because of the competition we were playing. It was probably a little ahead of our level, but the girls didn’t get discouraged and learned from it. When it came to playing schools closer to our size, we used that experience and we’ve been on a nice roll.”
The Lady Lions (13-5-1, 8-1) have collected 13 victories in their last 14 games with the only setback being a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Lampasas. That loss leaves the Lady Lions tied atop 34-4A with Lampasas, which fell to Brownwood, 1-0, in the first district meeting.
If Brownwood and Lampasas — which battles Robinson in its regular season finale tonight — finish tied for first place, a tiebreaker will determine seeding. The first tiebreaker is the head-to-head result, which was halved. The second tiebreaker is goal differential where Brownwood is at a disadvantage having defeated Lampasas by a single goal, while the Lady Lions lost the rematch by two goals.
“We’re hoping Lampasas loses and does us a favor,” Gibbs said. “It doesn’t seem fair to lose the No. 1 seed based on one goal, but all we can control is beating Lorena and hoping for help from Robinson.”
The Lady Lions have already clinched a fifth consecutive postseason berth and have won at least one playoff game in every appearance. But Gibbs — who took over for Brian Davis, who had been with the program since its inception — wasn’t sure what to expect from the Brownwood girls this season.
“Coming into it, I was fairly unfamiliar with the team,” Gibbs said. “Usually (the boys and girls) games had been on the same days but in opposite locations, so maybe I watched one or two of their games over the last two years. I didn’t know much about them other than they’ve made some good runs in the playoffs.”
Gibbs feels the Lady Lions’ balance at various positions on the field, as well as the depth on the bench, has led to the team’s successful charge toward a district title.
“We’ve got very good center mids in Alex Bernal and Jennifer Martinez and most games they are able to dictate what happens,” Gibbs said. “Those two have done a really good job throughout the year. The back four (Jeane Standridge, Maddie Oines, Josie Borgia and Naomi Rosato) and our goal keeper (Katelyn Murphy) are very solid. There haven’t been many games where teams have scored very many goal against us. And we have two good forwards up front (Tori Sanchez and Ashley Vaccaro) with a lot of speed who can score some goals when we need them to.
“Our bench is also pretty deep. When we put in the subs we don’t have much of a drop off. We’ve also gotten tons of goals from our bench. We don’t have to have people playing a lot of minutes because there’s not really a drop off, which is a good thing.”
As for the prospect of earning their first district championship, even if only a share, Gibbs stated the Lady Lions’ excitement level is at a season high.
“They’re very pumped up and it’s been fun to see the change in morale since the first of the year,” Gibbs said. “One of the keys for us has been the change in attitude that we’re pretty good and have a chance to win every game no matter who we play. We expect to beat teams.”
The site of the Lady Lions’ first-round playoff game has been determined as they will compete at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Robinson, the first half of a doubleheader that features the Lions playing at 7:30 p.m. Who Brownwood will face will not be known until this weekend.