To get back to the Region IV tournament where they saw their playoff run end last year, Salado Lady Eagles had to get through the #1 Giddings Lady Buffs on April 5, beating them 2-1 at House Park in Austin.
Ashlen LaCanne scored both goals that lifted the Lady Eagles to the Regional tournament. In the first round of the Region IV tournament, they will face Rockport-Fulton, the winner of District 30-4A, which beat Port Isabel 6-0 April 5. Joining Salado and Port Isabel will be Pleasanton, which beat King 3-2 in the Region Quarterfinal and Boerne, which put a 10-1 beat-down on Canyon Lake.
Boerne ousted the Lady Eagles last year in the final round of the Region IV tournament. But this playoff run has been one of revenge. The Lady Eagles beat Wimberley in the Area Round to avenge their only loss. Salado carries a 24-1 record into the tournament and are the highest ranked team left in the playoffs.
But getting to McAllen has not been easy.
Against the top-ranked Giddings Lady Buffs, Salado fought a tightly contested match. The Lady Eagles carried a 2-1 lead into the second half.
Salado drew blood first when LaCanne took a blocked shot on goal off of a Giddings defender in front of the goal and rocketed it past the goalie with 25:46 left in the first.
She scored again about 11 minutes later, despite having two other shots on goal go wide earlier in the period, taking an assist from Annie Ewton and hitting the lower left hand corner of the goal with 14:33 left in the first.
Up 2-0, Salado goalie Sam Isbell had to block three shots on goal in less than four minutes under the relentless attack of the Lady Buffs. The Lady Eagle defense went from sideline to sideline defending against the speedy girls from Giddings.
The Lady Buffs finally converted their pressure with 4:19 left in the first when Megan Rangel needled the ball past two Salado defenders and shot it into the upper left of the net.
Giddings threatened again with just two minutes left in the first when Rengel shot the ball over the net.
Earlier in the period, Salado missed two scoring opportunities when shots by LaCanne went wide for her at 20 minutes and 17:40 in the first.
Although the second was scoreless, it was not without drama, as Giddings maintained pressure on the Lady Eagles and held the ball on the Salado side of the field for what seemed an eternity of the final five minutes of play. With 4:50 left in regulation, a shot by Rangel went wide right. When the Lady Eagles kicked the ball back toward the Giddings net, Sara Wilkerson saw a shot that would have sealed the game for Salado go wide left with just a minute left.
Giddings then attacked again, but Annie Ewton twice defended the ball in the final half-minute for Salado before Morgan Bird provided the last defense needed, kicking the ball past midfield as time ran out.
Salado Lady Eagles will face Rockport-Fulton in the semi-final round of the Region IV 4A Soccer Tournament at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium on Feb. 8. The game time is to be announced.