The Sherman Lady Bearcats had back-to-back matches that were going to define their ability to chase down a playoff berth after getting off to a rocky district start.
They had played the top three teams in the standings and were set to face the two tied right above them. A loss in either would severely damage their chances of getting to the postseason.
For 78 minutes it looked like the first match-up, against rival Denison, was going to put Sherman on the brink of elimination. But there was just enough time for the Lady Bearcats to pull even and then capture the ensuing shootout to ensure the final match of the season will carry major significance.
D’Ira Woods scored with 1:50 left in regulation and then was one of four Lady Cats to notch a goal in the shootout, which was clinched off the foot of Kayla McDonald, as Sherman earned the extra point over Denison with a 4-2 advantage on penalty kicks following a 1-1 tie in 10-5A action at Munson Stadium on Friday night.
“We were pushing and pushing and had nothing to show for it,” Lady Bearcats head coach Nic Summerfield said. “Then we finally got it to go through. They know how big the rivalry is. We had to play our best game.”
Sherman (4-11-3, 0-4-1) picked up its first points of district play and sits one back of Princeton and two behind the Lady Jackets. The Lady Bearcats play at Princeton on Tuesday night to start the second half of the 10-5A schedule and need to avenge a 4-1 loss to remain in the thick of the three-team-race.
“One game right now can swing that,” Summerfield said. “We are not out of it by any stretch. There’s now a great focus on Tuesday night.”
Denison (11-6-1, 1-3-1) still has sole possession of fourth place, although it is by a single point over Princeton. The Lady Yellow Jackets host first-place McKinney North on Tuesday.
“We still have to take care of business but we still control our own destiny,” Denison head coach Aaron Bach said. “Put the fuel in the fire because we’ve got five games to go.”
Denison had a 2-1 lead in the shootout on goals by Kaitlyn Graham and Amily Lazcano while Sherman got a goal by Fatima Terrazas but Ashlyn Creswell made a save on Abigail Escobedo’s attempt.
Bailey Tillotson pulled the Lady Bearcats even and Yasmin Zaldana stopped Delaney Butterworth’s shot.
Woods scored on her try and Zoey Crisler sent a shot over the crossbar. McDonald clinched the shootout for Sherman when she snuck her shot under Creswell’s dive.
The Lady Bearcats were pushing the tempo in the final minutes to get the equalizer and it came off a counter attack that went the length of the field. Lizbeth Sanchez was along the left sideline when she found Woods, who was streaking down the middle of the field, for a shot which found the back right corner.
“If you let a team hang around, they gain confidence,” Bach said. “They had momentum going to the shootout but that was expected.”
The Lady Jackets almost stole the victory when Rylee Joul’s free kick from the left side was shielded as it went towards the net and Zaldana had to make a last-second save just 35 seconds after Woods had tied it.
Woods nearly tied the match in the first five minutes of the second half after taking a long pass from McDonald but her shot from the top of the box went over the net.
The Lady Jackets had a couple of chances to pad their lead but came up empty. Christina Hernandez got behind the defense on the right side with 32 minutes left but two defenders were able to recover enough to force a pass instead of a shot.
Minutes later Graham’s corner kick from the left side went off Zaldana’s hands but was headed out before Denison could knock the rebound home. Hernandez couldn’t catch up to a pass before Zaldana came out to snag it with 17:27 remaining.
Denison jumped right to the lead with a goal by Graham less than three minutes into the match. The Lady Jackets had a corner kick from the right side and Hernandez sent the ball right in front and Graham was able to head it backwards off the crossbar and the ricochet took it down and into the net.
Sherman’s best opportunity for the equalizer came right before the end of the half. The Lady Bearcats were able to control possession and with 2:10 showing had a corner kick from the right side. McDonald sent the ball to far post and Woods headed it on net but Creswell was able to dive and get a hand on it to keep it from getting over the line.
Sherman’s ensuing corner went off the left side of the net and Denison took the slim lead into the locker room.
Terrazas had a one-hopper deep from the right side take a funky bounce, which forced Creswell to knock it away minutes earlier.
The other two shots on goal in the half by the Lady Bearcats came from Woods — she was stopped with a long shot 15 minutes in and then with just under eight minutes showing Creswell also came up with a save on her attempt.
Denison didn’t sit back after notching its early goal but was unable to add to the lead. Hernandez had an opportunity before Graham got on the board but Zaldana came up with a save. Her next opportunity came at the 29-minute mark but her shot from the left side hit the side of the next.
Joul’s free kick from 25 yards out on the right side was off target with just under 15 minutes remaining in the half for the last strong chance by the Lady Jackets.
“We just didn’t click. First touch has been off a little bit,” Bach said. “I don’t know if the goal was a bad thing because we got a little comfortable.”
Sherman 2, Denison 1
The Sherman Bearcats scored twice in the second half, including the winner by Gregorio Quintana with just under 16 minutes remaining, to rally past rival Denison to close out the first half of district play on Friday night at Bearcat Stadium.
Christian Chinchilla tied the match seven minutes into the second half when he got behind the defense after receiving the free kick by Jose Nandin for Sherman (5-7-7, 1-2-2), which gained sole possession of fourth place, moving three points ahead of Princeton and three points behind McKinney North. The Bearcats host Princeton at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday at Bearcat Stadium.
Andres Menjivar scored with 25 minutes remaining the first half off a blocked free kick to give Denison (2-12-1, 0-5) a 1-0 lead at the break. The Yellow Jackets play at McKinney North at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday night.