State. In high school athletics, this word indicates that you have reached the summit. This word means that you are in the final four out of the 132 teams that reached the playoffs. This word commands so much respect that hundreds of students, teachers, and faculty abandon the school campus to drive hours to watch a game that will forever be ingrained in their memories of high school.
The girls soccer team played in the state semifinals Friday morning against Dallas Highlands Park and lost 3-1 in extra time in the most intense high school sporting event I have ever attended.
Do not let the score fool you, if you were at the game then you’ll understand, this match was incredible from start to finish. Right from kick off, Highland Park tried overpowering Mac with their tremendous speed and size. The Lady Brahmas wasted no time in adapting to the pressure that Highlands was putting on them. The girl’s began to take the ball down the line with their wings, and fed senior Kyra Falcone as often as possible. Highlands still appeared to be in control as the first half wore on, they fired numerous shots that were swallowed up by senior goalkeeper Mary Cardone. With three minutes remaining in the half, Kyra got the ball about 40 yards out and went to work on the left wing. She shook one defender, then eased by another with her amazing dribbling, then she sent in a perfect cross to the head of sophomore Bella Vontoussaint, who promptly headed it into the goal.
Then the first half ended, and the collective feeling from the crowd was pure anxiety.
For the sixth time this postseason the girls had a 1-0 lead, this was familiar territory for them. Then as the second half began, the Scots showed why they were ranked 25th in the country coming into this game. They bombarded Cardone and the Brahmas stout defense, and eventually broke through with 21:00 remaining. The remaining 21 minutes were largely controlled by Mac, they hit two crossbars, and had a few other near goals. Including a penalty that was saved with nine minutes left in the game.
Then regulation ended, and the momentum shifted in favor of Highlands Park
The Scots were relentless, but Mac still had chances as they hit another crossbar from a Vannessa Lecocq free kick with eight minutes left in the second half of extra time. Then the floodgates opened as Highlands scored two goals in the final five minutes of the game, off of two rebounded shots after Mary made crucial saves. The score was 3-1 with one minute left.
Then the game ended, and everybody wearing blue and white had the same dejected expression.
While sadness was shown, it did not take long before the crowd became overwhelmingly proud and cheerful of this team, and rightfully so. This was the first time since 2008 that Mac has had a team in any sport in the state semis.
This team went the whole regular season and basically said, “show us the playoffs, that’s when we thrive.” Which led to them coming in third in the district to Reagan and Johnson. Then they turned it on, completely dominating the first five rounds in the region, by outscoring the five teams 7-1. Including two wins over teams that they had lost to previously this season, in Steele and Johnson. Captains Kyra Falcone, Ana Campa, and Mary Cardone executed to perfection and set the tone throughout the playoffs. The tone was calm yet aggressive, they had several yellow cards and even a red card in their six games, because they were always the aggressors and always fought till the end.
Now we say goodbye to the 10 seniors and 7 starters from this team. In the starting lineup, Kyra Falcone graduates with 68 goals and 42 assists over her amazing four years, and she will be going to UT Austin to play soccer. Ana Campa tallied 17 goals and 30 assists in her high school career and will play soccer at UIW next year. Mary Cardone played 97 games, allowed merely 63 goals, and had 52 shutouts, she was truly the backbone of this team for four years.
Midfielders Erin Moore and Valeria Licerio were pivotal, and at times underrated, parts of this team, while defenders Vanessa Lecocq and Mikayla Wallace were two of the best defenders in the city throughout the postseason. Moore and Lecocq will play at Concordia, Wallace will play at TLU next year, and Cardone is undecided.
The unsung hero of this team is coach Erik Stolhandske. He did a great job at putting his players in a position to succeed. Whether that means changing the formation, making the appropriate subs, or calming down the girls to get them to refocus. Senior Erin Moore commented on what makes him such a good coach.
“[It’s] The belief he has and has had in us for such a long time, that we are good enough and deserve to do big things, he knows how capable we are,” Moore said.
Coach Stolhandske is 110-28-11 (W-L-T) at MacArthur, and has seen some exceptional talent in his in his six years, but this year was special.
“Having ten seniors, and seven that start for us, this is a very mature team,” Stolhandske said. “They’ve been through the playoffs before and to really step up their senior year, and take it this far, is an accomplishment.”
The MacArthur girls soccer dynasty will continue next year. They return forwards Bella Vontoussaint and Analisa Pompa, midfielder Carly Norment, and defender Neely Haby from the starting 11. The girls soccer program has made the playoffs 21 of the previous 23 seasons and made four state tournaments. Check out this graphic in the link below that shows their history.
I’ve said all I can on this remarkable team, so I’ll allow Coach Stolhandske to speak for all of MacArthur to close this out.
“[It was a] Great season, we’re very proud of you, and congratulations to the seniors on the team.”