JOSHUA — The Cleburne Lady Jackets picked up a huge 1-0 win Tuesday night over the Joshua Lady Owls at Owl Stadium.
Cleburne improved to 10-4-5 on the season and 3-4-1 in District 14-5A play with the win over the rival Lady Owls.
The win over Joshua was key for the Lady Jackets, who were coming off a 2-0 loss Friday vs. Midlothian in a match where the Lady Panthers scored both goals in the final 4 minutes of play.
“It was great to see the girls come together after a hard loss against Midlothian last Friday night,” Cleburne Coach Aaron Babcock said. “The emotional swing of playing well but not getting a result is hard to overcome, but the girls did that [Tuesday] night. It’s also nice to get a result against a quality team in our district. We’ve sat in the middle of the table for the majority of district play, and getting a win over one of the top 3 teams was huge.”
The lone goal of the match came from Cleburne freshman defender Samantha Vesely, who scored the first goal of her high school career on a penalty kick in the 25th minute. And from there, goalkeeper Lexie Key and the Lady Jacket defense made the 1-0 lead stand as Cleburne recorded its 10th shutout of the season.
“Lexie made several saves throughout the match, but she had one in particular that really kept us in the game,” Babcock said. “Joshua took a shot to the bottom right corner and I was not sure if Lexie was going to get to it in time, but she did and she got there quick enough to hang on to the ball and not give up a rebound. I don’t know of many other keepers in our district that can make that save, let alone hang on to the ball. She has played lights out for us this season and our success has been in part to her effort between the sticks.”
Cleburne’s defense has been stellar throughout the season, even in its four losses. In those four losses, the Lady Jackets have surrendered only six goals.
“This was our 10th shutout of the season and it came from phenomenal play from our back line and from Lexie,” Babcock said. “Joshua is talented and fast up top, and it took a great effort to stymie them in front of our goal. Our midfield and forwards helped us by pressing Joshua and slowing down their counter attacks [Tuesday] night, allowing for our back line to stay in good defensive shape. The shutout goes to our goalkeeper on paper, but it was a team effort to keep them out of the goal, especially after we went up a goal early in the first half.”
After going 2-3-1 in the first round of district play and then losing to Midlothian a second time, Tuesday’s win over Joshua is the type of turnaround Babcock was looking for down the stretch.
“This is one of the results that we needed to flip from the first round of district play,” he said. “Dropping two games to Midlothian was unfortunate, but evening up the score against Joshua was huge. The loss to them in the first round was tough, letting one get in the goal in the last minute of play was especially tough, but if we can flip another result or two we’ll be in a good spot at the end of district play.”
With the loss, the Lady Owls dropped to 10-3-3 overall and 5-3-1 in district play, firmly in third place.
“First off, all credit to Cleburne for playing well and getting the result tonight,” Joshua Coach Jeff Brooks said. “That said, our ladies grew into the game. We didn’t get the win, but we had our chances and it just didn’t happen for us this time. This was a step for us, though, because we played with playoff intensity throughout. Still have a lot of spots to improve, but proud of the effort tonight.”
The Lady Jackets, currently in fourth place by one point over Waco University, will host Ennis at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The Lady Owls will visit first-place Midlothian at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
In the boys’ showdown, the Owls captured a 1-0 win over the Jackets on Tuesday night at Owl Stadium.
Cleburne and Joshua battled to a scoreless draw at the break, then the Owls struck in the 51st minute on a header from Griffin Gayler that proved to be the difference.
The Owls moved to 4-3-2 in District 14-5A play, tied with Red Oak for third place, while the Jackets dropped to 0-7-1 in league action.
Cleburne will try for its first district win at 7:30 p.m. Friday when the Jackets host Ennis while the Owls visit Midlothian.