REGIONAL SOCCER PREVIEW: Ridge Point, Seven Lakes, Friendswood among teams to watch in semifinals
Strike or get struck.
The best of the best in regions III-6A and III-5A boys and girls soccer roam southeast and northwest Houston this weekend, seeking berths to next week’s state tournament in Georgetown.
The Region III-6A boys and girls tournament takes place Friday and Saturday at Abshier Stadium in Deer Park. The Region III-5A boys and girls tournament is also Friday and Saturday, but at Turner Stadium in Humble.
Semifinals for both tournaments will be played Friday. The championship games are Saturday.
Ridge Point (24-0-0) vs. Atascocita (17-5-2), 12:30 p.m.: Ridge Point is the favorite to come out of the girls tournament. The Panthers have been explosively dominant all season, scoring 112 goals and allowing just four. Four NCAA Division I commits dot the roster. The District 20-6A champions are in their first regional tournament since 2015. Atascocita, District 21-6A runner-up, is on a three-game win streak and riding the play of an outstanding defense. The Eagles have surrendered 18 total goals in 24 games.
Stratford (19-3-4) vs. Beaumont West Brook (18-4-3), 2 p.m.: Upstart Stratford is in the regional tournament for the first time since 2013. The District 17-6A champions are anchored by senior Rileigh Toner and junior Lauren Ahearn. Ahearn has six goals in the playoffs, four in the last two games. Stratford has a tough task in front of it in West Brook, which has scored 102 goals and allowed 15. West Brook has not lost since Jan. 17 against Tomball Memorial.
Seven Lakes (18-1-3) vs. Deer Park (12-4-6), 5:30 p.m.: Deer Park is on an impressive run. After finishing third in District 22-6A, the Deer finds itself in the regional tournament, outscoring playoff opponents 8-2. But Deer Park is up against the favorite in the boys tournament in District 19-6A champ Seven Lakes, which has scored 80 goals and allowed 20. The Spartans are in the regional tournament for the first time since 2017 and the fourth time overall. Seven Lakes’ only loss this season is a 3-1 setback to Katy Taylor on Feb. 22, a defeat it avenged in a 3-0 regional quarterfinal win last week.
Cy Creek (22-2-1) vs. Strake Jesuit (16-2-6), 7:30 p.m.: District 17-6A champ Cy Creek has only surrendered 12 goals this season. The Cougars get outstanding goalkeeping from seniors Aaron Dunn and Omar Juarez, who have combined for 16 shutouts. In the attack, Cy Creek is led by senior Erik Morales (15 goals, 19 assists), senior Federico Castagna (10 goals, five assists) and junior Ian Bryant (10 goals). Strake Jesuit is 14-1-4 in its last 19 games. The Crusaders are coming off an impressive 3-0 regional quarterfinal win over Pearland.
Magnolia (22-1-2) vs. Foster (23-3-1), 11 a.m.: Foster is in its second straight regional semifinal and seeking its first regional final appearance. The Falcons are on an 11-game winning streak and dominant in every aspect of the game, scoring 142 goals and allowing just 11. The District 24-5A champs have not lost since Jan. 7 against Klein Cain. However, Foster is going up against another regional titan in what might be the most compelling game of the tournament. District 19-5A champ Magnolia has won eight consecutive games. Like Foster, Magnolia is skilled in the attack and on the backline, scoring 100 goals and allowing 10. Magnolia has not lost since Jan. 11 against A&M Consolidated.
Friendswood (25-1-0) vs. Pflugerville Hendrickson (18-3-4), 1 p.m.: District 22-5A champ Friendswood has won 24 consecutive games and are looking to make a return to the state tournament, where it fell to Dripping Springs in the semifinal last year. The Mustangs are the favorite to come out of the region, scoring 117 goals and allowing only two. Junior Ellen Fairbanks has been an unstoppable force between the posts with a .082 goals-against average. In her 25 games, she has shut out the opposition 24 times. Friendswood has four girls who have scored 10 or more goals, led by the prolific striking of junior Olivia Schmidt (33 goals, 24 assists). Senior Cameryn Peter has 18 goals and 23 assists. Hendrickson has won five consecutive games and scored 65 goals while allowing 25. The Hawks are District 18-5A champs.
Kempner (20-2-1) vs. N.E. Early College (12-7-4), 4 p.m.: Kempner is the District 24-5A champion and has scored 75 goals while allowing 20. The Cougars, playing in their first regional tournament, are on an eight-game win streak and have surrendered only one goal in their last four games. N.E. Early College is one of the more admirable stories of the soccer playoffs after finishing fourth in District 17-5A. The Raiders sent shockwaves across the state when they upset regional power Paetow in the area round. Senior Angel Perez has scored 15 goals to lead the Raiders. Junior Alan Garcia has an 0.46 goals-against average between the posts.
Foster (17-5-2) vs. Jordan (16-6-2), 6 p.m.: Foster is in the regional semifinal for the second consecutive season. The Falcons are looking for their first regional final appearance, like their female counterparts. Foster has surrendered just one goal in the playoffs, thanks to the play of senior all-state goalkeeper Ezekiel Cerda. Senior Nicholas Arellano paces Foster’s attack. The Falcons have scored 66 goals and allowed 26. Jordan is having a terrific inaugural year of varsity play. The Warriors have scored 49 goals and allowed 21. Sophomore Elijah Betancourt is tough in the net for Jordan. Sophomore Ryan Armijo and junior Hani Taan spur the Warriors’ attack.