The Lady Jackets battled second-place Red Oak to a 1-1 draw Friday night, and in the process, Cleburne officially clinched a playoff berth.
After a disappointing 2-3-1 record after the first round of District 14-5A play, Cleburne Coach Aaron Babcock said they needed to do some things differently and have a few results from the first round flip in their favor in the second round.
And that's exactly what the Lady Jackets have done as Cleburne now sits at 5-4-2 in league action with one regular-season match remaining.
“It’s been awesome to see us get the results flipped in the second round,” Babcock said. “We had a team meeting and discussed what we needed to do to get to the postseason, and the plan came together. It is always good to see the results come from hard work.”
In his first season at the helm of Lady Jacket soccer, Babcock has Cleburne in the playoffs again with an overall record of 12-4-6, and doing so with a team full of underclassmen contributors.
“It feels absolutely amazing to have the pleasure of leading these girls to the postseason in my first year here at CHS,” Babcock said. “We’re a very young team and while sometimes it shows on the field, these young women have really stepped up and earned this trip to the postseason.
“I told them that they had to win tonight to get in even though a tie would get us in. The look on their faces after the game when I told them that a tie was enough to get in was one of pure joy and excitement. They have earned this, but now they know that are going to have to work hard to get that elusive first-round win.”
After losing to Red Oak, 1-0, in the teams' first meeting, the Lady Jackets grabbed a 1-0 lead this time around as freshman sensation Allyson Reed buried her 27th goal of the season.
“Allyson looked up and saw Red Oak’s keeper several yards off her line and chipped her shot from 30 or so yards,” Babcock said. “It was an incredibly smart goal from her.”
Red Oak had the game-tying goal about 12 minutes later. The second half of play was fairly even with both teams having a couple of scoring opportunities but unable to get one through.
“Our girls stepped up and took the game to Red Oak instead of letting them play over the top of us,” Babcock said. “It was a good, well-balanced game, and I feel that a draw is a quality result against a side like Red Oak. Of course, we wanted to win, but a point against the No. 2 seed from our district is nothing to sneeze at.”
Now the Lady Jackets have a week off before finishing out the regular season March 17 at Waco University.
“Our week off comes at a good time,” Babcock said. “We can use this week to recover and get some players healthy for the playoffs.”
With Joshua's 5-0 win over Ennis on Friday, the Lady Owls jumped back in front of Cleburne for third place. So barring a loss by Joshua on March 17 combined with a Cleburne win, the Lady Jackets will be the No. 4 seed.