Tigers too tough to tame … again

Loss to A&M Consolidated in area playoff doesn’t diminish all that the 2022 Knights accomplished in stellar season

What+senior+Carly+Johnson+and+her+Knight+teammates+lacked+in+terms+of+size%2C+they+made+up+for+with+heart+and+grit.+On+this+first+half+play%2C+Johnson+repelled+the+scoring+threat+by+heading+the+ball+out+of+harms+way.+

Dave Winter

What senior Carly Johnson and her Knight teammates lacked in terms of size, they made up for with heart and grit. On this first half play, Johnson repelled the scoring threat by heading the ball out of harm’s way.

On the surface of it, the girls varsity soccer team’s 4-0 loss to the A&M Consolidated Tigers in the area round of the 5A state playoffs on Tuesday at Giddings Stadium was much like the Knights’ 5-0 loss to the same team at the same point in the season a year ago.

Last year, it felt like we played defense for 90 minutes; this time we got several shots off.”

— senior co-captain Carly Johnson

This year’s game, however, was different and not just because it was played before in a veritable wind tunnel.

The game was a lot more evenly matched even if the final score didn’t show it.

“We played a lot better this year,” senior co-captain Carly Johnson said. “The wind sucked, but we’ve been dealing with that all season. Last year, it felt like we played defense for 90 minutes; this time we got several shots off.”

During the first half, the Knights had the wind at their backs, and they created some excellent scoring chances from long range as a result. Kat Klein blistered a shot that hit the crossbar, and McClellan blasted a free kick that was on the mark less than six inches under the crossbar before it was punched over it at the last second by the Tiger goalkeeper.

“It’s really disappointing that we couldn’t get one in, but that’s soccer I guess,” Johnson said. 

While the game brought a sudden and sad end to the Knights’ season, it didn’t minimize the team’s achievements during a remarkable season that saw the Knights realize many preseason goals and overcome preseason concerns with flying colors.

Johnson said that senior goaltender Emma Mattie was instrumental to the team’s success this season. “Emma has been amazing all season,” Johnson said. “Her best games were against Anderson and Ann Richards. I never felt nervous back there with her, not even yesterday. She’s been an MVP in my book for a while.” (Dave Winter)

Johnson said the nine seniors on the team, the first group to play for head coach Stephanie Watson for four years, should be proud of the season. 

“We were co-district champs, beat Anderson and won a playoff game. We did everything we wanted to accomplish.”

Heading into the season, the team had some huge cleats to fill with key players lost to graduation. And the team was undeniably undersized, but Johnson said that the team overcame that by playing collectively with a huge heart.

One major surprise, she said, was the emergence of freshman Ashley Mankinen as a force on defense and on offense. 

“She is just always there,” Johnson said. “I never get nervous whenever she’s 1v1 with someone. I’m always on the left side with her, and she’s just calm and so good. You can really put her anywhere, and she’ll succeed. She can play left/right forward too and has scored a couple times.”

Johnson also praised other players who took on new roles in 2022 to enable the team’s success.

We were co-district champs, beat Anderson and won a playoff game. We did everything we wanted to accomplish.”

— Carly Johnson

Junior Chloe Anderson, for example, moved from defender to midfielder, a move that was made possible because McClellan accepted a new role as defender. Goalkeeper Emma Mattie took advantage of the opportunity to become the No. 1 goaltender and shined in that role.

“Emma has been amazing all season,” Johnson said. “Her best games were against Anderson and Ann Richards. I never felt nervous back there with her, not even yesterday. She’s been an MVP in my book for a while.” 

While Johnson was a key player on the back line in previous seasons, she admitted on Thursday that her senior season was probably her best in a Knight uniform. 

She did not say the same about her co-captain Mia Gomez. 

“Every year she has is good,” Johnson said. “I’m so happy for her getting that [career goal No.] 130 she wanted. She showed a lot of grit this year, and her work-ethic is gonna get her so far.”

While Gomez is headed to play soccer at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Johnson said she is not going to play collegiate soccer. 

“I’m definitely going to be playing at the club level,” said Johnson, who will study journalism at the University of Georgia in the fall. “I can’t not play. That’s crazy.”

She said she will miss Mac soccer.

“I’ll miss playing at House Park, celebrating wins, Camilla Gammerdinger coming to our games, and the fun in playing soccer with good people.”

Best of Area Playoff (Girls Soccer)