SPRING — The Woodlands dealt with the wind in the first half Tuesday night, but were unfazed by it.
Against a Cypress Woods team that came in with a stingy defense and goalkeepers, the Lady Highlanders padded a nice lead in the first half and came out with a 5-0 in the Region II-6A area playoffs at Klein Oak High School.
The Woodlands (20-1), ranked No. 2 in Class 6A by the TGCA and on a 16-game winning streak, will face Tomball (13-6-4), which defeated Oak Ridge Tuesday, in the regional quarterfinals later this week. It’s The Woodlands fourth straight trip to the third round and the 15th time in program history the Lady Highlanders have gone this far in the postseason.
“It feels really good,” The Woodlands senior Marley Krach said. “This was one of the most competitive games we’ve been in. So it was really good to be a part of such a competitive game. Their team really brought the energy which was what we were looking for all year.”
Cy Woods (18-4-3) saw its 14-match unbeaten streak come to an end with the loss. The Wildcats had won nine straight games with its last loss all the way back on Jan. 29 against Bridgeland.
“They’re very good, they had a great year,” The Woodlands coach Dina Graves said. “They had lots of chances against us, Bella came up huge making some great saves for us. Our back line did a great job. We just took advantage of the opportunities that we got.”
Cy Woods was out-scoring opponents 30-1 coming into the night with its lone goal allowed just last week against Klein Collins in the bi-district round.
Facing a consistent wind in the south end, The Woodlands went on the scoreboard in the 7th minute on a freek kick from 40 yards out by Emily Bates.
Graves used baseball pitching analogies to describe the shot.
“I think just the wind...it’s like a knuckleball or throwing a curveball in there into the keeper,” Graves said of how the ball went in. “It’s unfortunate (for the keeper), but it’s the way it is.”
In the 23rd minute, Samone Knight from the left corner crossed a perfect pass to Courtney Koehler, who then flicked it off her head into the corner of the goal for a 2-0 lead.
It was a great pass considering the wind was still gusting hard at times.
“We did a good job of just being able to play in any kind of weather,” Knight said. “Our coach prepared us before and told us to make sure to keep in mind the wind. We just played knowing that.”
Also the finish was something else.
“It was awesome,” Graves said. “Courtney is amazing. She’s been injured at the beginning of the year, so she’s still kind of weaning herself back. She’s not even at full-speed yet. That’s what kind of fun is she’s able to do such great things (despite not gaining that speed back). She’s just smart and she’ll run through a brick wall. She’s just a great teammate too.”
Just before halftime, Koehler played a ball through to Katherine Williams, who used her legs to push through into the goal area and slide the ball past the keeper for the 3-0 lead.
Rylie Graves (with a header off a corner kick) and Koehler (on a fastbreak) each had scoring chances in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Krach put a shot on goal in the 62nd minute but Cy Woods goalkeeper Sam Nichols smothered the ball for the save.
Just three minutes after Krach’s shot on net, Janey Kauppinen broke through with a goal from inside the box for the 4-0 lead.
After a ball off the post and a save by Nichols, Ivana Palomo scored in the 74th minute on a rebound at the top of the box.
The Wildcats previously allowed just 14 goals leading up to Tuesday.
The Woodlands came in off a decisive 7-0 win over Spring last Thursday in the first round of the playoffs. Led by goalkeeper Isabella Hollenbach, The Woodlands hasn’t allowed a goal since March 5 against Oak Ridge.
“Just a team effort, top to bottom,” Graves said of Tuesday’s win. “I’m just incredibly proud of my group. Just proud that we get to move on.”
For a senior like Knight, being able to play the postseason is just special in general after it was canceled last year due to COVID-19.
“It makes it even more special just because we didn’t get to experience it last year,” Knight said. “We’re all really excited to be here.”