THE WOODLANDS — The Woodlands and Conroe’s previous meeting ended up being the final game played for the pair in March 2020.
The rivalry was rekindled Tuesday night with the potential for each team of taking over sole possession first place in District 13-6A with a win and three points to either side.
The Woodlands handed Conroe its first loss of the season, 3-0, at Weldon Willig Field as the Highlanders are now on atop alone.
The loss was Conroe’s first of the season after not taking a defeat through 12 games.
The teams split their matches last season with Conroe topping the Highlanders for the first time in well over a decade to conclude the shortened season.
The returning Highlanders (12-1-2, 4-0, 12 points) from a year ago weren’t thinking too much about that game.
“I think our boys are fired up to play everybody,” The Woodlands coach Jason Fanning said. “I think when you have a mentality to have certain teams you get tuned up for over others...that’s a recipe for disaster. We teach in this program that we’re going to respect the game by treating everyone the same. We’re going to bring the intensity and concentration into every single match.”
For Conroe (8-1-4, 3-1, 9 points), the hope is to learn off this game as it did a year ago after its first loss to The Woodlands.
“The Woodlands is a great team,” Conroe coach Michael Pistor said. “They’re always a great team. Last time we played them the first go around (last season), they won and we learned a lot from that game. We were able to get a lot of takeaway that made us a better team overall. When we came back and played the second time at the end of the year, we were able to get a win at home.”
The Highlanders took the lead in the 13th minute on their third scoring chance of the night.
Hasan Arif made a nice run up the right side and slid the ball underneath Conroe goalkeeper Helio Hernandez for the 1-0 lead. Arif also scored this past Saturday in the Highlanders’ 4-0 win at Grand Oaks.
Davin Hickman-Chow, Graham Miller, Cody Tice and Matthew Hilborn each had scoring opportunities in the first half as The Woodlands out-shot Conroe 4-1.
The Tigers shot one off the post in the 8th minute when the game was still scoreless.
Twelve minutes in the second half, The Woodlands cushioned its lead.
Off a free kick from the wide right side, Tice put in a header to make it 2-0. The goal came a minute off a great scoring opportunity by Hickman-Chow, who put a shot on net off a feed from Andrew Davison. Hernadez made a great save for the Tigers.
In the 60th minute, Conroe missed a big opportunity as Julian Vega put a solid ball on net, but Sebastian Pardo denied him with a big save to keep the clean sheet intact.
A minute after Conroe’s ensuing corner kick, the Highlanders went up three goals.
Nico Gonzalez, who also scored Saturday against Grand Oaks, found a clearing up the left side and slid it through into the far side of the net.
For The Woodlands back line of Hilborn, Max Coady, Nathan Boyles and Ollie Mason, it was the fourth straight shutout and just one goal has been allowed in nine games. Pardo made several key saves to log the clean sheet.
“Our mentality is to defend with 11,” Fanning said. “When we’re executing that, it’s very difficult to get quality chances against us. Sebastian is a part of that that — not just with the saves he makes — but on communication and getting everybody organized on set pieces. He does a fantastic job.”
Two rivals meet again March 12 at Moorhead Stadium in Conroe.
“It was a high intensity game,” Pistor said. “They bring out the best in us, I think we bring out the best in them. It’s great for both programs. We’re going to improve a lot off this game.”
Conroe hosts Willis this Friday while the Highlanders are set for another rival the same night when it makes the short trip to College Park. Both matches conclude the first round of district play.
“We want to win every game,” Fanning said. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a game that we don’t have a chance. We’re going to go into every game that we’re going to win. The results are just validation for the hard work that we’ve been putting in.”