A second trip to the regional tournament is just one win away for the Lufkin Panthers’ soccer team. The final step will be a tough one as the Panthers take on Mansfield Lake Ridge in the regional quarterfinals at Pine Tree ISD Athletic Complex Tuesday night.
Lufkin has battled its way through two rounds of the playoffs, winning the opener by a single goal before Friday’s shootout win.
Head coach Russell Shaw and the Panthers aren’t expecting things to get any easier against a talented Lake Ridge team.
“We know they’re very athletic with good size and good speed,” Shaw said. From what we’ve heard about them, they have a very strong team.”
However, the Panthers won’t be backing down from any challenge. After bringing home the state title last season, Lufkin has its sights set on going back-to-back.
That has proven to be quite a challenge while taking the best shot from each team in their path.
Shaw said one major component to this year’s playoff run has been the play of the returners from last season’s team.
“It gives them something to lean on, knowing they’ve been there before,” Shaw said. “It gives them the confidence they can get through it and still win.”
And while Lake Ridge is a virtual unknown for the Panthers, their focus has been on bringing their own intensity to the game.
“I think we were a little too pumped up the other day,” Shaw said. “We just need to try to calm down a little bit but still play with the same intensity and emotion. Those were the two big things the other day and we can benefit from that.”
The winner of today’s game will advance to the regional tournament to take on the winner of the Wakeland/McKinney game. The regional semifinal will be held in Carrollton on Friday at 1 p.m.
“We’re after a spot in the regional tournament,” Shaw said. “To do that we really need to fine tune our game. We need to do what we do and do it at a high level.”
Tuesday night’s game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.