“We knew we had the momentum after the second goal and we knew we had this game and that we could win it when we played our best,” Koc said. “It was amazing and meant a lot to all of us."
Seven Lakes learned how to take a teams best punch on Tuesday.
The Spartans are young but have already been tested, winning a heavily difficult District 19-6A and learning how to win in the playoffs in bi-district.
But Tuesday was an even bigger test, the Spartans had to learn how to take a big punch and get right back up in the playoffs, and that’s exactly what they did, coming from behind twice to beat Cy-Ridge 3-2 and advance to the regional quarterfinals.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and I don’t think that wavered tonight,” said Seven Lakes head coach Jimmy Krueger. “We’ve scored multiple goals in almost every single match we have had, so I knew the guys wouldn’t let being behind phase them. We know that we can put the ball in the back of the net so it’s just making sure that we minimize mistakes on the back line and not give teams chances to beat us.”
Seven Lakes dominated the early stages of the game, but it was Cy-Ridge that struck first in the 20th minute on a counter attack.
The Spartans had to battle their way back into the game but eventually did so, tying things at one in the 38th minute, with Hunter Merritt finding the back of the net off a centered pass from Kortay Koc to make things all square at half.
“Coach told us at halftime that we have to keep working and pushing” Koc said. “We were getting close but we had to keep pushing. We didn’t want this to be our seniors last game and we had to play for the seniors. We don’t want them to go out, they all deserve better than that.”
Cy-Ridge made things difficult for Seven Lakes to do that though, and the Rams regained the lead in the 48th minute. But Seven Lakes answered back almost immediately, as Koc blasted a goal in from 25-yards out to tie the game just a minute later to swing the momentum back in the Spartans favor.
“He’s a special player,” Krueger said. “He may be a freshman, but he doesn’t play like a freshman. There’s nothing about that kid that would make you think he’s a freshman. He gets stuck in, he’s nasty when he needs to be and he’ll do anything that he’s asked. We moved him into the middle because we needed a little bit of grit and he brought it. He can play anywhere on that field, he has a really bright future ahead of him as long as he stays hungry and driven.”
Seven Lakes defense has had moving parts in the past few games as the Spartans have dealt with injuries, and it was no exception on Tuesday. While the entire team struggled to contain Cy-Ridge’s counter attack at times the back line stepped up in the second half to shut things down when needed. Aidan Morrison, an attacking midfielder for the Spartans had to step in to help the back line and earned man of the match for his efforts.
“He was just so calm and composed and really helped anchor the back line tonight and the whole group, Krueger said. “They’re able to play big when it’s needed the most and they showed it again today.”
Seven Lakes finally came all the way back when in the 65th minute Noa Stasic found space and converted the Spartans third goal to give them the lead for good.
Seven Lakes held off Cy-Ridge for the rest of the match on the way to secure the win and move on to the regional quarterfinals.
“We knew we had the momentum after the second goal and we knew we had this game and that we could win it when we played our best,” Koc said. “It was amazing and meant a lot to all of us. Especially with all the fans in the crowd and how much it meant to them too.”
It will be a battle of familiar foes in the regional quarterfinals, as two Katy ISD schools face off in Seven Lakes and Taylor. It will be the team’s third game against each other this season.
“We just have to play our game,” Kreuger said. “They are a big physical team. They dominate on set pieces, they have that monster throw. We just have to mentally be ready to go in the trenches and battle in those moments. Taylor is a very dangerous team, in any other district they are not a fourth seed. They have the ability to be dangerous but the most important thing for us is to play our game and no one else’s.”
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