Games between Sherman and Denison always put bragging rights on the line for the long-time rival schools, but tonight’s match-up carries the much more important playoff implications.

Games between Sherman and Denison always put bragging rights on the line for the long-time rival schools, but tonight’s match-up carries the much more important playoff implications.

Sherman and Denison will most likely determine the final two girls’ soccer playoff seeds in District 17-4A when the two open the second half of league play at 7:15 p.m. tonight at Denison. The Lady Bearcats enter the game in third place with a three-point lead on the Lady Jackets, which could force a tie with a win in regulation.

"Through the off-season and into pre-district, the girls circle that game," Sherman head coach John Williams said. "They came in this year wanting to get 12 points with two wins against Anna and Denison, but that’s a big rivalry game. I can’t imagine us not coming out to play."

If the two teams match their records in the first half of district play, a Denison win tonight will mean a tie with Sherman for third place at the end of the season. Both teams handed a loss to Anna in the first round of district, with Sherman’s rematch coming Friday and Denison’s coming in the regular season finale.

Sherman (6-11-1, 2-2) got the upper hand on Denison (6-9-2, 1-3) in the standings with a 2-0 win in the District 17-4A opener Feb. 7 at Bearcat Stadium.

After Denison won a 1-0 non-district game Friday against Durant and handed Anna a 3-0 loss last Tuesday, head coach Joe Horn hopes his Lady Jackets can carry over the momentum.

"I think against Durant was our best game of the year and hope we can continue to build off that," Horn said. "We’ve been playing defense much better and if we can keep that up, that’ll turn into success."

The Lady Cats dominated possession of the ball during the first half of the first match-up, leading to an early Kate Oelfke goal, and Madison Craig capitalized on a failed clearing attempt by Denison before the half.

Coming off a 5-0 district loss Friday at Prosper, Williams said Sherman needs to jump on the Lady Jackets early to get back in rhythm.

"If we jump on them early and put them on their heels, we should be OK," Williams said. "We can’t have any breakdowns on defense and have to keep good possession of the ball."

Denison has shown drastic improvement from last season, when it won just two games all year and none in district. The Lady Jackets have all ready tripled their win total from a season ago behind leading point scorer senior Zoie Voight with 10, six points apiece from senior Angel O’Brien and junior Harley Goodin, and sophomore Maria Jaimes’ five points.

Horn credited Denison’s six seniors — Cristal Gonzalez, Miranda Poe, Zoe Reed and Cassie Tucker, O’Brien and Voight — for the jump in the win column.

"I think the big thing this year is our senior leadership," Horn said. "This is much more of a team that it has been."

Last year, the Lady Cats made the playoffs for the first time in six years after notching regulation wins against both Denison and Anna, plus a shootout win against Anna. Those eight points gave Sherman third place in 17-4A before it lost in the first round of the playoffs to Frisco Liberty, 8-0.

Injuries sidelined six Sherman players in the pre-district schedule, including all three senior captains — Sami Powers, Kelsey Jarvis and Madison Craig — at one time. Sophomore Paige Aleman is the last starter to start transitioning back into her starting role after returning to play 10 minutes Friday against Prosper.

With most of his players healthy, Williams said playing on Denison’s grass-and-dirt practice field behind the high school, due to construction at Munson Stadium, may pose more of a problem.

"It’s going to be kind of like playing on a street," Williams said. "The field is really narrow, so it’ll feel like there are more people out there. And on the east side of the field, no ball will roll straight down the line. It’ll roll down and out of bounds."

Horn said the field plays in Denison’s favor.

"I think the field is a big advantage to us. We’re used to playing on it and other teams aren’t," Horn said.

Weather may also become a factor tonight. The forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain with temperatures dropping into the low-40s by game time.

"If it rains, it’ll make for a mud bowl," Horn said.