STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — A determined, stingy, and focused Austin Lanier boys soccer team invaded Mustang Stadium set on ensuring history repeated itself in a bi-district matchup March 29 to begin the Class 5A postseason.
After all, the last time the Mustangs (15-9-1, 9-5 District 26-5A) hosted a playoff game, in 2014, they fell 2-1 to Leander Rouse in double-overtime in the third round.
Not this time.
Marble Falls found a way to overcome an early deficit and win on penalty kicks, escaping with a 2-1 victory.
Next up is Victoria East in the second round of the playoffs. The game is 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, at Matador Stadium, located at Cedar and Texas 123 in Seguin.
Against Lanier, Marble Falls head coach Rick Hoover noted the Mustangs might have been the more physically fit and better prepared team, but none of that matters in the playoffs.
“It comes down to who wants it and who is willing to fight to the finish,” he said. “Games like this come down to effort and who’s willing to lay it on the line.”
In the end, that’s what separated Marble Falls from Lanier as the teams took their penalty kicks.
“Penalty kicks are about competence,” Hoover said. “It’s all about confidence.”
And it couldn’t have started better for the Mustangs.
Lanier took the first attempt, and Marble Falls junior goalie Michael Vasquez blocked it. That fired up his team and the fans.
Freshman midfielder Andrew Rodriguez scored on the Mustangs’ first attempt as the ball found the right corner of the goal.
Vasquez blocked the fourth Viking attempt, while the Mustangs got penalty goals from senior midfielder Fortino Tinajera, junior defender Bernabe Torres, and senior midfielder Christian Ammons, the final three shooters, outscoring Lanier 4-3.
“You have to give the win to Vasquez,” Hoover said. “What typically happens during a shootout is if the shooters miss, it’s because they hit it wide or hit the posts. Michael saved two, and that was a big deal.”
In the first half, the Mustangs weren’t as sharp. Offensively, they had at least 15 shots at goal but couldn’t finish a play. The vast majority of the contest was played on the Lanier side of the field, and Marble Falls stayed in the match on strength, stamina, and determination.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs defense simply didn’t quit. While the Vikings scored on its only corner kick of the first half in its first attempt, Marble Falls allowed only two more shots on goal in the first half.
At halftime, Hoover said he wasn’t upset or angry. He didn’t yell, and he didn’t pout. Rather, he told his players the truth.
“Y’all played nervous the first half,” he recalled saying.
He added that one of the better players on the team was physically ill and couldn’t go in the second half. The Mustangs had to make a lineup change, and it takes time for players to adjust.
“You have to keep your head up, and you have to fight through it,” Hoover said.
A more relaxed Marble Falls squad took the field to begin the second half. Ten minutes into it, Torres found the back of the goal on a header for the equalizer. It came on a corner kick by Ammons, who earned the assist.
“I knew if we could get a goal, the momentum would shift,” Hoover said.
However, Marble Falls continued to play the game on Lanier’s side of the field and couldn’t get the ball into the net.
Still, Hoover commended his players for their mental stamina in finding a way to win.
“I’m excited that when we have an off night, we’re able to grind out a win,” he said.