STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
LAKEWAY — The Marble Falls High School boys soccer team is making a historical trip April 13.
The Mustangs are on their way to Corpus Christi for the Class 5A Region IV tournament for the first time in school history after eliminating District 26-5A rival Dripping Springs 5-2 in the regional quarterfinals April 6.
The Mustangs (17-9-1 overall, 9-5-0 district) will play Pharr Valley View (29-0, 16-0 District 31-5A) at Cabaniss Soccer Field, 3061 Oso Drive in Corpus Christi.
Against Dripping Springs, Marble Falls was dominant across the field.
“This was a game where we connected on both sides,” Mustangs head coach Rick Hoover said. “We scored five goals and gave up two. And the two goals we gave up were on set pieces. Those were tough.”
With 36 minutes 51 seconds in the first half, the Tigers (19-4-3, 8-3-3) began the scoring off a 70-yard free kick by senior goalie Jaxson Thornton, who signed to play soccer at Chapman University in Orange, California. The ball was just over the outstretched arms of the Marble Falls goalie.
“That’s bad luck. That’s almost a heartbreaker,” Hoover said.
He added that he didn’t have to say much to his players because the 12 seniors on the squad told their teammates they could get the goal back.
Senior midfielder Christian Ammons, who scored two goals during the contest, was one of the players who spoke.
“I told my teammates to relax and keep their composure,” he recalled. “It’s too early. The game will come back, and the goals will come.”
Marble Falls responded 2½ minutes later when senior midfielder Fortino Tinajera scored on a corner kick to tie the contest at 1-1.
Mustangs junior forward Isek Munoz broke the tie when he found the right corner of the net with 4:20 left in the half for a 2-1 lead that the Mustangs never relinquished.
Ammons added another goal with 2:49 left in intermission for a 3-1 lead.
When play resumed in the second half, the defenses didn’t back down as each side made plays to ensure the score remained intact.
But with 17:26 remaining, Ammons had a breakaway goal, finding the left corner for a 4-1 advantage.
Though Dripping Springs senior midfielder Cruz Martinez scored to trim the deficit 4-2 with 16:29 left, it was short-lived.
Marble Falls freshman forward Tate Deering ended the scoring with a breakaway goal with 15:29 remaining.
Hoover said he always believed the Mustangs would have to light up the scoreboard multiple times to ensure the win.
“I felt like it was going to take at least three goals because (Dripping Springs is) such a good offensive team,” he said. “We didn’t give up a goal on the field of play.”
The big key to the outcome, the coach said, was once the Mustangs began putting pressure on the Tigers all over the field, Dripping Springs got tired. While both teams had several shots on goal, Marble Falls’s conditioning played a factor in finishing plays that resulted in goals, he added.
“When you get to this level, it’s all about who still has the energy,” Hoover said. “We didn’t stop running for 90 minutes. The game got easy for us because they were exhausted. We kept the pressure up.”
In three playoff victories, the Mustangs have allowed three total goals, all on set pieces. Hoover believes his athletes can perform even better defensively.
Hoover took over the program when these seniors were in the eighth grade, so they all know each other very well. He is proud of the way the athletes refused to lose and continue to find a way to score goals. Above all, he said, he is pleased the players bought into his vision years earlier and are reaping the rewards now.
“This is five years in the making,” Hoover said. “It’s pretty good results.”