Seven Lakes continues run, advances to first ever regional final with win over Deer Park

By Tyler Tyre, Sports Editor
Posted 4/8/22

“We’re playing a great team,” Galloway said. “We just have to prepare, get ready and rested. We have to get our bodies rested and make sure we are completely ready for tomorrow.”

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Seven Lakes continues run, advances to first ever regional final with win over Deer Park

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DEER PARK – Seven Lakes wanted to make history.

Friday marked the schools fourth regional tournament, but each of the past three appearances had ended the same, with a loss in the regional semifinals.

This team was determined to break that streak, to make history and to stamp their names in the Seven Lakes record books.

They did just that on Friday, with a 4-0 win over Deer Park, netting the Spartans (19-1-3) their first ever trip to a regional final.

“It’s been a long time coming it feels like,” said Seven Lakes head coach Jimmy Krueger. This is trip number four for us and it’s one of things where we were ready and we felt good coming into this one. The previous two that I had, we had won a penalty shootout going into the regional tournament. This time around, we played very well last round to a very strong side in Taylor and it was just riding that wave into this tournament.”

It was a dominating win for the Spartans, who went into enemy territory in Abshire Stadium and had all the momentum from the first kick of the game.

It only took 90 seconds for Seven Lakes to make their first statement of the match, as Hunter Merritt was brought down in the box by the Deer Park goalkeeper in the second minute of play, earning a penalty. Aidan Morrison stepped up to take the penalty from there and coolly put it past the keeper in the bottom right hand corner for the goal.

The Spartans kept pressing and it paid off in the 25th minute, when Seven Lakes got a corner and Noa Stasic pounced on a ball bouncing in the box for the Spartans second goal of the night.

“It’s so helpful for us,” said senior center back Ben Galloway, who was part of a defense that secured a clean sheet. “When our offense goes out there and attacks and gets those early goals, it takes the stress off our shoulders and lets us play our game. We keep it cool in the back no matter what, but it’s great knowing what our offense can do in front of us.”

The Spartans weren’t done in the first half either. Seven Lakes kept pushing forward, attacking both on the counter and in possession and they got their third in the 35th minute, as Merritt once again got past the Deer Park defense and this time rounded the goalkeeper, calmly passing the ball into the net to get on the scoresheet.

“I knew I was faster than their right back and so I just took advantage of it,” Merritt said. “Coach Krueger told me to exploit my speed and make diagonal runs every chance I could. We did that very well and I was just glad to get a goal.”

Merrick attacked down the wing and the middle all night, continually creating opportunities for the Spartans and coming away both with his goal and a drawn penalty.

“He’s a battler and I’ll take him to war any day,” Krueger said. He’ll run through a wall for you and it’s just one of those things where he has the pace as well. That hard work and pace really paid off today. We knew their back line would struggle with our pace up top, he was big for us all night and was man of the match.”

Seven Lakes controlled things in the second half and fought off Deer Parks counters as they secured the win.

The Spartans put in some backups with 10 minutes remaining, allowing players who had worked all season to be a part of the victory, and the best loudest cheer of the night came when Aaron Bhattachan, a backup senior defender who is also the president of the National Honor Society, got an open shot from outside the box and buried it past the goalkeeper for the Spartans fourth goal.

“That’s what you dream for, those players that have grinded every single practice,” Krueger said. “The minutes haven’t been there, but their attitude has been solid, their work rate in training sessions have been perfect and it’s just the cherry on top for someone like Aaron to step out, get a little time up top and hit a banger.”

The Spartans will try to keep making history on Saturday, as they play Cy-Creek at 2:30 p.m. at Deer Park, with the winner advancing to the state tournament.

“We’re playing a great team,” Galloway said. “We just have to prepare, get ready and rested. We have to get our bodies rested and make sure we are completely ready for tomorrow.”

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