GEORGETOWN — Rudder goalkeeper Ryan Hammond lived on the edge, but he and the Rudder Rangers are still alive in the Class 4A soccer playoffs after a 1-0 victory Friday over the Waco High Lions.
The Robinson girls’ soccer team also lost, 1-0, to College Station.
On three occasions, Hammond was pulled away from his goal — once a long way from the comforts of the nets — but Rudder’s defense was never hurt by it in a high-paced second half of area championship play at Birkelbach Field.
“The kids played hard and they worked hard,” Waco High coach Kris Kahler said. “We controlled the ball a little bit. We just had to create shots and couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
Waco High finished with a 15-6-1 mark.
Waco High had held the field-position advantage throughout the first half, but Rudder flipped that with one play. A well-timed Diego De Hoyos pass slipped through right of the goal and Ismael Melendez slid onto the ball to deliver power with his left foot and score the goal.
The Lions raced quickly back into Rudder territory but were turned aside. From that point, control of the game for the rest of the half shifted to the Rangers. Unable to make solid connections early, their footwork became better and their passing crisper.
Eduardo Lugo escaped pressure on the goal line and worked the ball though but Eleazar Hernandez’s shot was stopped. Hernandez had two more shots on goal. The first was a well-struck ball that forced Ivan Guevara dive far to his right for the save. Guevara also stopped Hernandez’s try when the ball bounced out in front after a corner kick.
The scoreless second half was played at a high pace. When one team attacked, the other countered with full-field attack.
The Rangers’ best dodge came when a high-bouncing ball that ticked off Hammond’s hands. It was on its way toward tying score when defender Edgar Huerta caught up to the ball, undercut it with his foot and knocked it high back to the middle for a game-saving save.
“My heart just sank,” Hammond said. “Luckily, I had my defender, Edgar Huerta. He had my back and he helped saved the game.”
In the girls’ game, the 36-4A champion Cougars, who have not allowed a goal since the start of district play, kept their net clean again.
Robinson, the third seed from District 34-4A, was also solid on the defensive end, holding a Lady Cougar team that had scored multiple goals in every game during its shutout streak to just one goal. Robinson senior defender Jessie Jaynes ended several College Station scoring threats throughout the match, making hustle plays and cutting off several passes to keep the Lady Cougar offense in check.
“They did a good job of defending, especially the middle of the field,” College Station head coach Stoney Pryor said. “We tried to use the widths and they were tough on the inside. Hats off to them.”
The lone goal of the match happened in an unusual fashion. Just over six minutes in, the Rockets had taken possession back from College Station deep in its own defensive zone and a Robinson pass was challenged and deflected toward the goal by sophomore Lexi Bullard. Robinson’s attempt to knock it away was unsuccessful and the Lady Cougars took the 1-0 lead early in the first half.
Robinson had a couple of scoring chances in the first half but were unable to muster any goals.