JUSTIN — The excitement the Stephenville Honeybees and their fans felt two years ago when they won the school’s first-ever soccer state championship is back — with a chance to earn their second crown in three years.
Coach Casey Weil’s 25-1-2 Honeybees endured a two-hour lightning delay and rainy game conditions on Saturday to capture the Region I-4A girls soccer championship with a 6-0 victory over Fort Worth Castleberry on the turf field at Northwest ISD Stadium. Castleberry’s regional semifinal win Friday was over Canyon, 1-0.
The District 6-4A champion Bees had eliminated 17-7 San Elizario by an 8-1 margin in the regional semifinals on Friday — at the same location, but on a dry field.
The UIL state soccer tournament is being played at Georgetown High School, starting today (Wednesday, April 17). The Honeybees’ state semifinal game will be at 11 a.m. against Region III-4A champion Lumberton (23-3-2), which was a 1-0 winner over Lorena Saturday. SHS will be on the home side. Single-game ticket prices are $12 for adults, $7 for students. An all-tournament pass is $30.
The winner of the SHS-Lumberton contest will advance to Thursday’s 2:30 p.m. 4A state championship game, also at Georgetown High.
The other 4A girls state semifinal game at 1:30 p.m. today will match Region II champion Melissa (21-0-2) against Region IV winner Liberty Hill (23-2-2).
Melissa’s regional semifinal victory was over Spring Hill — the team that eliminated 2018 state champion Midlothian Heritage this year. The Honeybees were edged out by a 2-1 margin last year in the regional semifinals.
Stephenville’s girls held the No. 1 position in the most recent 4A girls state poll posted online by MaxPreps. The Honeybees held the No. 8 ranking in the final regular-season Texas Girls Coaches Association’s poll.
“In terms of getting back to the state tournament, it’s a phenomenal experience for all of them,” Weil said. “There are about 280 teams that don’t get that experience. We’ll stay humble, and I’m just extremely proud of them.”
In the San Elizario game, Abby Harrison scored three goals and had two assists, while Haleigh Beam and Ciara Johnston scored two each. Beatris Chavarria contributed the other goal. Claire Choate, Madelyn Heupel, Beam and Johnston contributed one assist each.
Beam and Harrison scored two goals each in the win over Castleberry. Gracie Bales and Johnston picked up the other two goals. Johnston recorded three assists, while Chavarria, Harrison and Beam had one each.
EXCITEMENT ALL AROUND
“We’re very excited,” senior Emily Kirbo said after the win over Castleberry. “We’ve been just dreaming (of getting back to state) and working really hard.”
Kirbo said this year’s team seems to be better overall than the past couple of years.
“I think so. I think we got closer a lot more, and we worked hard — and we want it,” Kirbo said.
Junior Gracie Bales said, "It’s something we’ve worked for, and we know what to do.”
Bales said the players have been trying to make sure that “what happened last year did not happen again,” so they didn’t have to “feel that way again.”
Bales added, “Everything we’ve done this year has led up to this. We’re so excited. Our chemistry and bond right now is unbelievable.”
On Friday following the win over San Elizario, senior Cody Hawks said the Honeybees are thinking how this playoff journey feels compared to how it felt last year when they lost.
"We’re thinking of playing for ourselves instead of everyone else," she said. "Last year there was so much pressure, and we were expected to win. This year we’re doing it for ourselves.”
Hawks also noted that this team has quality depth, extending deep into the bench.
“It’s not just an 11 that is good,” said Hawks, a three-year starter for the Bees. “It’s the whole team, and we click together.”
Harrison scored three of the first four Stephenville goals against San Elizario, starting at the 23:42 mark in the first half. Chavarria’s goal came at the 15:10 mark, extending the Bees’ lead to 3-0 before Beam landed a shot in goal that made it a 5-0 halftime lead.
After Beam scored her second goal, with 36:20 to go in the second half to make it 6-0, Johnston’s first goal came with 26:46 on the clock to make it 7-0.
San Elizario’s lone goal came with about 21 minutes remaining, followed by Johnston’s second goal, completing the scoring at the 13:04 mark.
As for the one goal allowed in the San Elizario game, when the Honeybees had a comfortable 7-1 lead, Weil said, “We definitely just made a mistake. Every second still matters, whether you’re up 8-0 or not.”
Beam and Bales notched the two goals in the regional title victory over Castleberry for a 2-0 halftime lead.
Beam’s second goal gave the Bees a 3-0 lead early in the second half, and Harrison’s first score of the game made it 4-0 at the 31:14 mark.
Johnston’s goal came with 30:27 remaining in the game, and Harrison’s final goal completed the scoring at the 21:24 mark.
Since the start of district play, including the playoffs, the top scorers for the Honeybees are Johnston with 18, Bales with seven, Harrison with six, Beam with four, Chavarria with three and Choate with two. Chavarria leads in assists with nine, followed by Johnston with eight, Choate and Bales with seven each, Beam with six and Harrison with three.
For the entire season, Stephenville has allowed just 10 goals. Earlier this season, the Bees set a new girls soccer school record for scoring in a single season.