By Ryan Mayner
Dozens braved the near-freezing temperatures Tuesday to watch the Hays High Rebels and Lake Travis Cavaliers soccer teams square off at Shelton Stadium.
But a pair of goals in the second half allowed Lake Travis to escape with a 3-2 win.
For Hays head coach Jason Burnett, the fight shown against the projected 14-6A district champions was encouraging.
“I feel good about it, in all honesty,” Burnett said. “I mean I expected our guys to game up, and they showed up.”
Lake Travis attacked early and often, keeping the pressure on Hays goalkeeper Will Cooper with several shots on goal. Several shots were stopped by Cooper, or were saved by several heads-up Rebel defenders.
Trailing 1-0 after the first 40 minutes, Burnett said the Rebels “weren’t able to control the ball in the central midfield very much.”
His adjustment from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 formation changed the flow of the game at the beginning of the second half.
Burnett said having the extra center midfielder forced Lake Travis to change their point of attack. It was a tactic that paid off in the end.
“Now, our defense still got their workout in but I think that gave us a little more opportunity up front, taking those other guys out of their comfort zone so they weren’t touching the ball as much,” Burnett said.
Hays claimed a 2-1 lead as Nick Thies scored a header from the corner, while Nick Perry scored off of a chip from Logan Lakos.
But the Cavs superior speed gave them two easy runaway goals to reclaim the lead. One goal was controversial as fans and Burnett thought it was waved off for being offside. However, the flag was taken back and the goal was allowed without explanation.
Hays goalkeeper Will Stirman, who was subbed in the second half, made the play of the match when he stepped out of the box and intercepted a corner kick.
Stirman led the charge downfield, calling out the play like a quarterback.
Both teams turned back downfield with time running out. But the comeback wasn’t meant to be as several kicks were missed or deflected prior to the final horn.
Hays will travel to play the defending district champion Del Valle Cardinals on Tuesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.