Incredibly, the Aledo Bearcat soccer team has won all six playoff matches by a goal, including Thursday’s 1-0 win over Houston Wisdom in the boys’ Class 5A state semifinals.
The Bearcats (25-0-4) will seek the school’s first state championship in soccer on Saturday against defending state champion Frisco Wakeland. The match is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. at Birkelbach Stadium on the campus of Georgetown High School.
The ‘Cats have won by one goal three times in regulation, twice in shootouts and once in overtime. The latest came against a Wisdom team that outshot the Bearcats 19-8 and possessed the ball for most of the second half.
But the Generals could not put the ball in the net.
Aledo head coach Derek Vierling dubbed the team the “Cardiac Kids” after a third-round overtime win over Denton Ryan. The Bearcats added three more one-goal wins – two by shootout – to get to the title match.
When asked who wins six playoff matches in a row by a single goal, Vierling replied, “I guess we do.”
Aledo senior Kyle Mauer scored in the first half and the goal stood up as the Bearcats went into shut-down mode from that point to earn the win.
Part of the reason the Bearcats felt confident in sitting back defensively was the reliance they have had in the playoffs on goalkeeper Konrad Garbowski, who earned his second playoff shutout. The German foreign-exchange student has allowed just seven goals in six playoff matches.
“It was fun, and that (Wisdom) is a good team,” Vierling said. “(Senior defender) Mickey (Maloney) played lights out shutting down their leading scorer (Eduardo Salgado), and Konrad made a couple of big saves. Kyle scored a great goal, and we keep finding someone else to step up for us.
“We didn’t want to bunker in (play back) for the entire half, but with 25 minutes left we made the change (to a more defensive style of play). We dropped Connor (Steele) a little bit deeper and played with two holding midfielders for a more defensive look.
“At half (with a 1-0) lead, we told our outside midfielders not to attack too much and played a little bit more defensive.”
Vierling has been waiting for Saturday since falling 3-2 to El Paso Del Valle in the 2005 state championship match.
“It is awesome to finally get back to the state championship game,” he said. “There were actually four guys from the ’05 team that came to watch us play and they all hugged me after the game.”
Vierling said he has enjoyed the attitude of his team during the playoff run. He does not expect the Bearcats to be intimidated playing the defending champions on the biggest of stages.
“This team has not been nervous all season,” he said. “They were loose (Thursday) even when we had to wait for the game before us to get out of overtime. They just sat in the locker room and listened to music and relaxed. Then we came out and took care of business.”
Although Wakeland (18-4-6) is making its third straight appearance at the state tournament (its girls are playing for a 5A title as well before the boys’ 5A title match), the Wolverines came into the state tournament as the fourth seed as seedings are based on overall records.
Wakeland, taking advantage of three early ejections of Pharr Valley View players, defeated the Tigers, 3-1, in the semifinals to reach the championship match.
Wakeland, who fell in the state title game 10-9 in a shootout in 2016, lost twice in district to a Frisco Reedy team that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. However, Wakeland has been outstanding defensively, allowing just five goals in six playoff matches.
Oftentimes in championship games, experience can be a huge factor.
“Wakeland’s biggest strength is their experience,” Vierling said. “They are defending state champs, and this is the third year in a row they are in the state finals.
“I feel their most dangerous strength is their team speed. They are super fast. We will have to keep everyone in front of us and make sure no one gets behind us. We will also have to try and counter attack them and make sure we don’t get counter attacked.”
In-match updates will be provided on The Community News Facebook page.
Bearcats path to the title match
- Bi-district: Bearcats 3, Denton Braswell 2
- Area: Bearcats 1, FW Arlington Heights 0
- Reg. qtrs.: Bearcats 3, Denton Ryan 2 (OT)
- Reg. semis: Bearcats 3, EP Bowie 2 (4-1 shootout)
- Reg. final: Bearcats 4, EP Del Valle 3 (6-5 shootout)
- State semis: Bearcats 1, Houston Wisdom 0
Wakeland’s path to title match
- Bi-district: Wakeland 3, Prosper 1
- Area: Wakeland 2, Wylie East 1 (shootout)
- Reg. qtrs.: Wakeland 3, Frisco Centennial 1
- Reg. semis: Wakeland 2, Mansfield Lake Ridge 1
- Reg. final: Wakeland 1, Mount Pleasant 0
- State semis: Wakeland 3, Pharr Valley View 1