Last year was a historic season for Vandegrift High School in many respects. But, the girls soccer team’s state title was especially sweet. The road to a repeat state title may challenging, but that hasn’t stopped the Lady Vipers from getting out to a strong start in district play.
Last season, the Lady Vipers seemingly spent all of last season both chasing, and being chased. Many of the team’s critical victories along the way were close, with key goals often coming in dramatic fashion.
With three losses and a pair of ties, and an oft-repeated battle with district and LISD rival Cedar Park playing out through the regular season and again in the playoffs, when the teams played to a 1-1 tie in regulation. The Lady Vipers just missed a scoring opportunity in overtime, but when neither team scored a winning goal, the game went into a second overtime. With no scoring in the second overtime, it was a kick from midfielder Kyndal Howard who slid the winning penalty kick past Cedar Park’s District 25-4A goalkeeper of the year Alanis Guevara for the win.
It would be a familiar theme, as another LISD rival, Rouse, pushed the Lady Vipers into overtime in the regional title game.
In the state semifinal game, Vandegrift and Northwest Nelson were locked in a scoreless tie at the half, and finished regulation tied 1-1, and the Lady Vipers again won in a shootout.
Though the state title game was won in regulation, it wasn’t until the 2:30 remaining in regulation when Howard punched the winning goal in with a header.
“We’ve been pushed to the very last second (all season),” coach Jen Hardy said after the game. “No matter what the score, no matter what, we just keep going.”
Last year’s team benefited from having a number of seniors, all with playoff experience. This year looks much the same, with Howard, forwards Emily McShane and Megan Welliver, midfielder Kylie Morse, along with defender Landry Everett. Also returning is senior defender Paige Welch, who made a near-miraculous save in last year’s semifinal game to help the Lady Vipers reach the title game.
Juniors Savana Andres, Elise Harias and Cassidy Cavanaugh and Peyton Jones all have valuable experience from last year’s championship run. But, with a roster laden with underclassmen, the season will be both a challenge and an opportunity to build for the future.
After last year’s title game, Welch put it best, saying: “If anything, this win will give us something more to work for. Now we have something to defend,” said Welch.
That defense is now well underway, with the Lady Vipers dominating East View and Leander in the first week of District 25-5A play last week.
In the first game of the district schedule last Tuesday, Vandegrift blew past East View 7-0 at Monroe Stadium. On Friday, the Lady Vipers traveled to Leander and outscored the Lady Lions 6-0.
Vandegrift played at Vista Ridge on Tuesday of this week and will host Cedar Park on Friday night at 7:15 p.m.