Kilgore Advances to State Tournament With Victory Against Pleasant Grove
LONGVIEW – It was Sarah Loomis’ day again.
After saving the game in a shootout on Friday against Mabank, Loomis resumed the role of hero on Saturday. With Kilgore clinging to a small lead in the Region II 4A regional final game against Pleasant Grove, the Lady Bulldogs needed defense.
They got it, both in the form of Loomis, the goalie, and their defenders. Pleasant Grove’s chances in the second half were few because of the defense. The combination enabled Kilgore to earn a 2-1 victory and advance to the state tournament for the second time in the past three seasons.
Pleasant Grove’s best chance came with 7:32 left in the game. The Lady Hawks had a clear shot at the goal, but Loomis reached out and swatted the ball away. The save gave Kilgore the momentum it needed to close out the game, with Pleasant Grove’s next best chance a desperation shot with 10 seconds left.
“Pleasant Grove did fight until the very end,” coach Heidi Hagan said. “When (Loomis) made that save, I think she just said in her head, ‘I’m not going to let anything pass me.’ She stepped up. Last year, she was thrown into the fire and this year she was very confident in herself and knew she could do it.”
Although defense dominated the second half, offenses took the first.
Kylie Nichols scored the first goal after the ball rolled to her on an error from Pleasant Grove. That put Kilgore up 1-0 just nine minutes in.
Leslie Bennett was the next to score. Victoria Shipman was awarded a free kick from the 30 yardline and found Bennet for the assist.
Bennett later left the game with an injury and Nichols had to briefly leave after being carded in the second half. Hagan said she was proud of the way her bench filled the void of the two starters.
“If you need a break or somebody gets hurt, I’ve got a whole bench.,” she said. “They can play several positions. That’s what makes this team so incredible. They’re not just a one position. They’re so many of them that are versatile. When Leslie went down, they stepped up and they just finished. What an amazing day.”
Kilgor joins Midlothian Heritage, Jasper and Liberty Hill in the state tournament. The Lady Bulldogs will face one of those teams, to be announces later, on Wednesday.
“This group, they’re focused and they’ve got their eyes on the prize,” Hagan said. “They watched their boys get it and they want it. ‘We have to get it this year, coach.’ The way they are playing, I think they can. They just have to continue to stay focused, stay together and play hard.”