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Athens’ Magical Run Ends with 2-0 Semifinal Loss to Stephenville

GEORGETOWN — The Athens Lady Hornets dropped five of their first six matches of the year. It’s safe to say that back in January, a trip to the UIL state soccer tournament was not on the minds of many.

But Athens settled into form and won 11 of 13 games to reach its first final four.

The magic finally ran out Wednesday afternoon as Stephenville took a 2-0 victory over Athens in a Class 4A state semifinal from Birkelbach Field.

Athens (15-11-1), the champions of District 15, caught fire in the playoffs. The Lady Hornets breezed past Waskom in bi-district, 10-0, survived a shootout with Kilgore, and rolled to regional wins over Mabank (4-2) and Terrell (6-2) last weekend.

“It’s been a wonderful season, and we’ve fought hard,” said Athens coach Mark Hall. “We had a challenging first half of our season with a lot of losses. The kids made some good adjustments, and the kids never gave up, fought back. And the playoff run was a lot of fun. They showed their true grit.”

Stephenville (24-4) will face Boerne at 2:30 p.m. Thursday for the state championship.

The Honeybees dominated possession and were the aggressor for most of the match.

Stephenville held a 7-2 edge in shots on goal, and outshot Athens overall, 16-2.

After Stephenville had a goal wiped out by an offsides call in the first two minutes of the game, the Honeybees got on the board at 7:28 in the first half on a header from Gracie Boles that was assisted by Ciara Johnston.

“They are fast up front,” Hall said of Stephenville. “Adrenaline at the beginning of the game when everybody’s hyped up, it’s tough to make those clear adjustments. Our girls were trapping them, so it wasn’t that weren’t not working them. They had them in the offsides trap, so it wasn’t that we were being slow. They were just being too fast.”

The same duo effectively put the match out of reach when Johnston headed a Boles pass past Athens goalkeeper Makayla Lewis with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Stephenville had eight shots and three corner kicks in both halves, but cut down on the offensive mistakes after halftime. The Honeybees were called 12 offsides, two of which negated goals, in the opening 40 minutes.

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