Denton Ryan girls fall in semifinal shootout

GEORGETOWN, Texas -- The short-handed Denton Ryan girls soccer team overcame the odds Thursday by forcing a shootout against Cedar Park Vista Ridge but ultimately fell in the Class 4A girls state semifinals, 2-1 (3-1 in SO).

Ryan standout scorer Stevie Harris was given a hard red card in the 29th minute, leaving her team a player short the rest of the match. Head coach Raiford Malone said the official’s explanation was that Harris continued to kick at the Vista Ridge keeper, Katie Turner, after she had possession of the ball. Malone said he couldn’t see if that was the case.

“It is tough,” Malone said. “You lose one of your leading goal scorers and it’s been a duel up there between those two forwards. Both of them feed off each other and work together. Then you have to adapt your whole lineup because you have to play man down, too.”

Vista Ridge (27-3-3) capitalized with nine minutes left in the first half, when Megan Dunnigan made a sharp cut into the box off the dribble and sent a slow roller past Ryan keeper Anna Kraft into the back right portion of the goal.

Ryan (26-3-1) struggled to find any offense through the end of the first and the beginning of the second half, but Malone changed his formation, moving another attacker on top. The move paid off with 15 minutes left in regulation when Kirby Wright hit the back of the net just inside the box off a pretty through ball from Lindsay Eccles to tie the score at 1.

“When we needed that goal, we kind of switched things around and pushed another up and took one out of the back. It was enough to get us that goal,” Malone said.

In the second overtime, Ryan dominated position but both teams were running too low on energy to see a run all the way through into the net.

In the shootout, Vista Ridge hit two of the first four and Ryan could only muster one. Sophomore midfielder Brooke Dunnigan was Vista Ridge’s fifth and final shooter, juking Kraft into a dive and side stepping for a clear shot into the net and sending the Rangers to the 4A state finals.

Both teams remained chippy throughout, resulting in three bookings -- including Harris’ red card. The physicality of the game, however, was nothing new to Ryan.

“We’re used to a pretty physical game,” Malone said. “Our district is physical. A lot of our region is pretty physical. ... We’re used to that kind of play. We play a high pressure anyway. A lot of times when you're playing high pressure things get a little physical.”

Ryan had only been in one other shootout this season, in a preseason match against Garland Naaman Forest.

“You’re not going to be able to recreate that atmosphere in practice, there’s just no way,” Malone said. “It’s just one of those things that, we try to give them some pointers -- try to give them some ideas -- just let them get into a routine of just going through the process. But you're right, you’re never going to be able to practice that pressure that’s your on down here at a state tournament.”