While things didn’t always go according to plan for the Hays Rebels girls soccer team Friday, big plays in big moments carried the program to a key 2-0 win over the Vista Ridge Rangers.
With the win, Hays (8-5-1, 6-5) punched its ticket to the postseason by clinching a playoff berth. It marks the first time since the 2013-2014 season Hays will reach the postseason.
The Rebels closed the regular season with a 1-1 tie.
Two 40-yard passes transitioning from the Rebels defense to senior forward Maya Hood were the difference in a highly contentious district matchup on senior night.
“That isn’t something we practice, but that is something that happens when you got Maya Hood up top,” said Rebels head coach Brent Holcomb.
After technical difficulties prior to the game, it only made sense the mayhem translated on the pitch.
A combined 16 shots on goal, including two shots that caromed off the crossbar, a yellow card and an exceptional goalkeeping all occurred in the first 40 minutes.
Hays goalkeeper Alexis Spears kept Vista Ridge off the board with two critical saves in the first half. Spears’ first save came when she dove and used an outstretched arm to deflect a free kick from Vista Ridge sophomore Kaitlynn Jones.
Two minutes later, an outlet pass sent Ranger senior Erynn Jones led to a breakaway chance, where Spears made her second diving save of the game.
“This was the game of [Hays goalkeeper Alexis Spears’] life … We had some excellent play from a few players, and she was the player of the game.”
Brent Holcomb, Lady Rebel coach
The Rebels took advantage of a golden scoring chance as the half came to a close.
Rebel defender Jenna Sheeley booted a 40-yard outlet pass, sending Hood on a foot race with two Rangers. Hood then exhibited both speed and grace as she ran past the two defenders and floated a rainbow over the Vista Ridge goalkeeper.
“It’s unusual to find somebody of her stature that’s got the speed but also has that last little bit of touch,” said Holcomb.
The intensity present in the first half translated to some hostility in the second half. Aggressive slide tackles, pushing after the whistle and two more yellow cards were handed out.
The second long-range boot from the Hays defense came with just over 28 minutes remaining in the game. After a failed header attempt from the Rangers’ defense, Rebel defender Isa Hernandez’s 40-yard pass landed in the lap of Hood, which led to her second goal of the game.
With five minutes remaining in the game, Vista Ridge earned another one-on-one opportunity with the Hays keeper; Spears came up big yet again solidifying her shutout.
“Alexis denied not only those but had ridiculous saves off really good shots,” said Holcomb. “This game easily could have been 9-2, and when you say that, you feel it and you know it; Alexis Spears – fantastic.”
Click to enlarge photos from the Rebel vs. Vista Ridge game.