Lufkin Soccer Season Comes To An End

Panthers Soccer

It was going to take quite an effort to end the Lufkin Panthers’ run at a second straight state title. Mansfield Lake Ridge got that effort, and a little bit of good fortune, to capture a 1-0 win over the Panthers in Class 4A Region II Quarterfinal action at Pine Tree High School Tuesday night.
Lake Ridge took advantage of a Lufkin defender losing his balance to score the lone goal of the night midway through the second half then held on to end the Panthers nine-match playoff winning streak.
“We battled just like we have all season long and even into last year,” Lufkin head coach Russell Shaw said. “They just made one more play than we did. That’s the way soccer can go.”
The teams battled through a defensive first half without a goal. Then midway through the second half, Lake Ridge’s Kalon Henson got a shot on the goal and converted it off the upright for a 1-0 advantage.
From there, the Panthers put up a few scoring chances but were turned away by a determined Lake Ridge team that punched its ticket to the regional tournament.
“We were evenly matched and I thought we played well,” Shaw said. “It’s a disappointing loss. But we stuck together through all of our wins, and we’re going to stick together through the losses.”
The Panthers ended the season with a 14-6-5 record. That followed up a season in which they went 26-2-1 and won the school’s first ever state soccer championship.
In the past two seasons, the Panthers had a 40-8-6 record, a state title and another spot in the regional quarterfinals.
Lufkin had another solid season in 2016 despite losing the majority of its nucleus off last year’s squad.
“The team really came a long way since the start of the year,” Shaw said. “We basically started a brand new team from last year. They grew up, trusted us and believed in what we were doing. They played their best soccer near the end, and with a break or two, we could have gone even further.”
The loss brought an end to the careers of seniors Kacy Bennett, Dorian Bravo, Alexis Roque, Sammy Villegas, Gustavo Garcia, Mauricio Mendoza, Cristhian Pineda, Luis Lopez, Jonathan Silva, Ivan Herandez and Luis Enriquez.
“Really both this year and last year, you can say so much about this group of seniors. They won 40 games in two years, and that says a lot about how competitive they are and what they’ve meant to the program. These kids have been great leaders to the team.”

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