Sun., Mar. 18th, 2007 Lady Rebels take fourth from Central
When the clock finally read triple zeroes, Rachael Solari leaped into DeNeal Nutt's arms. Not one Lee Lady Rebel could hold her elation. Lee had all but cinched up a playoff berth with a 3-1 win over San Angelo Central on Saturday at Grande Communications Stadium.
It has been a long season for the coaching staff and every Lady Rebel. Lee (9-7-1 overall, 5-6 District 3-5A) had to overcome a 15-girl turnover from last year's playoff team. It faced a 1-4 start to district and a 3-6 record a week ago. The Rebels were not even in the playoff picture until this past Tuesday. "The older girls stepped up. But the younger girls also," Lee coach Amanda Melchor said. "We had the two freshmen score, so that was good for them. Rachael (Solari) stepped up her game." Solari, the junior captain, tied the game at 1-1 and assisted on the game-winner by freshman Shelby Morrow. Now all that stands between Lee and the postseason is an Abilene Cooper team that has not won since Feb. 6 and has been outscored 14-0 in the last week. Central (7-10-0, 4-7) has a good chance at beating last-place Odessa High on Tuesday but the Lady Bobcats knew that this match would decide the final playoff spot.
"There's not much I can say except they out-hustled us. They wanted it more," Central coach Andy Hernandez said. "Our girls did their best. ... It's like we're finished." The Lady Bobcats caught a break late in the first half that may have awakened Lee's intensity. Abby Montelongo found Allison Ray streaking past the Lee defense. The Lady Rebs whiffed on the clear and Ray finished past goalkeeper Katie Stewart. "It was frustrating. Two minutes left and they scored," Solari said. "We usually play better in the second half anyway. So I didn't panic." Melchor dug into the girls at halftime about the goal. "They were in trouble at half because that was completely uncalled for. That's happened before," she said. "I told them, 'You're beating them but you haven't played your most intense soccer.'"
It took Lee 17 minutes, but it finally evened things in the second half when Solari played a give-and-go off freshman Kaitlin Willis. Solari dribble drove from the left and put a shot in the near top corner over goalkeeper Britni Gonzalez. Lee had seized the momentum and seven minutes later, Solari headed a corner kick from Nutt away from Gonzalez and right to the feet of Morrow, wide open and virtually on top of the goal line. The final score came two minutes before the end of the second half when Morrow assisted another freshman, Brytni Moore, as they ran through the Central defense. "Even though we're young, we've been stepping up," Solari said. "I'm excited about Tuesday because I know we can win. We have it in us."