DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — Coming off a Class 5A state title game appearance a year ago, the Dripping Springs Tigers boys soccer team barely made the playoffs in its first year in Class 6A this season.
Needing to win their last two games in district play to edge Westlake for the fourth and final playoff spot, the Tigers (14-11-2) did that and then won their next five postseason games to advance to the 6A semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday. They’ll take on Allen at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown.
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For a team that had an overall losing record before the massive late-season tear, Tigers head coach Josh Hill likened his team’s attitude to the classic line from the 1985 cult classic film, “The Goonies.”
“Never say die,” Hill said about his team. “There were so many opportunities for us to pack it in and say this wasn’t our season, but every time [it] hit us, we’d find a way to claw our way back out.”
A tough nonconference slate of games left the Tigers 1-4-1 going into district play. The lone win before district play came 3-0 over San Antonio Churchill, and then District 26 play helped get the Tigers ready for a run like this, Hill said.
After beating Westlake 3-1 the second time the teams played, Dripping Springs took a pair of beatings from Lake Travis (4-0) and Del Valle (6-1) before solidifying their playoff spot with wins over Anderson (5-1) and Austin High (3-1). Since then, wins over Westwood, San Antonio Reagan, Stony Point, Laredo Alexander and Brownsville Rivera have fueled “rave dance parties,” on the rides back home, Hill said.
“I’m not sure how we didn’t get pulled over they were having such a good time,” Hill said. “One kid brings the strobe light and the music, and they’re celebrating for a good reason. They love being around each other, and they’re playing for each other.”
Only two starters remain from last year’s 5A runner-up team, so with almost an entirely new set of 11, this year’s team had to find its own identity. Hill said that happened about halfway through the season.
“We had to stop talking about last year,” Hill said. “They’re coming into their own and finding their own best version of themselves.”
Senior forward Mason Russell is one of the two starters from last year’s team, and he said the team’s passion really came through the last part of the season.
“It has been helpful to have playoff experience, but I’ve felt like I haven’t been nervous for games like I was last year,” Russell said. “We’ve been having a lot of fun, and I think that is what makes us a good team.”
Sophomore forward Parker Johnson said the seniors on the team have made his first year with the program a fun one.
“The seniors bring the competitiveness, and we have so much chemistry,” Johnson said. “We bond so much on and off the field.”
Dripping Springs takes on an Allen team that stumbled a little bit coming into the playoffs going 1-2-1, but with a 20-2-5 record overall, their body of work includes a 3-0 over Westwood and a 1-1 tie with Stony Point.
Hill said attention to detail is going to be critical for the Tigers against the Eagles.
“It’s going to be tight,” Hill said. “You’re going to have to defend, work hard and do those little things. You’re going to have to show up and play your best game.”
Texas’ top prep soccer teams are all playing in the state tournament in Georgetown starting with the 4A semifinals on Wednesday. In Thursday’s 5A girls’ semifinals, the undefeated Georgetown Eagles (25-0-4) take on Frisco (22-2-2) at noon and Connally (23-2-4) plays Frisco Lone Star (22-1-2) in the boys’ 5A semis at 7:30 p.m. In the 6A girls’ semifinals at noon Friday, Westwood (13-4-8) takes on Lewisville Marcus (24-1-1).