By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Lady Tigers took to the pitch at Round Rock McNeil High School following taking some lesson-learning lumps last week at the National Elite Prep Showcase. Belton came out with a vengeance, winning all three games of the Round Rock ISD Classic, winning last Thursday 3-0 over Abilene Cooper, 3-0 over Rockwall Friday and 2-0 over Round Rock McNeil on Saturday. Lots of offense was the order of the days for the Lady Tigers on the pitch and Courtney Dippel helped the Belton cause with three clean sheets in goal. Belton improved to 3-2-1 on the early season and head for the Governor’s Cup Tournament in Georgetown this weekend.
The Lady Tigers fired on all cylinders to start the tournament against Cooper Thursday. The Cougarettes had issues from the start with holding back the charging Belton offense. Tiarra Hodges and Aubrey Martinez assisted on each other’s goals that were sandwiched around Jamie Brown’s tally on a Mattie Krenek setup up. The end result was a Belton three-goal win and smiles all around.
Belton had a 1-0 advantage after the first half when Hodges scored her second tally of the game against Rockwall, heading in a Brown corner kick 3:05 into the second half to give the Lady Tigers a 2-0 lead. Rockwall tried forcing the issue off of a corner kick two minutes late, but great defense by Martinez kept the Lady Tigers up by two scores. Hodges had a clean break away with 28 minutes was stopped on an offsides call. Martinez hit the outside of the Rockwall goal from 10 yards out, too close to get a better angle but a shot near the goalkeeper nevertheless.
Erica Anderson cut off a shot heading on goal with 16 minutes remaining, giving Rockwall a corner kick. But the corner kick resulted in a Rockwall blast over the woodwork, giving Belton a goal kick and giving Dippel a chance to freely blast the ball out of harms way. Brown and Lexi Mack had great chances for the third tally, each from 30 yards out. Brown’s boot when just over the crossbar and Mack’s laser missed connecting through the middle of the pitch. The defense came up true in front of Dippel with 10 minutes remaining, as Rockwall attacked with several chances over a 90-second span. The Lady Tigers expertly cleared the box in front of Dippel and helped the play get back to between the goal boxes.
Belton’s third goal was set up on a corner kick with two minutes to go. Brown bent a short kick to the boot of Emily Navarro, who blasted a 30-yard diagonal shot that tucked into the far side post into the net. The Lady Tigers finished the tournament on Saturday afternoon by taking on the host Lady Mavericks. Martinez was golden for Belton, as she tallied twice, once on a great assist from freshman Allison Navarro.
“I am very, very proud of the defensive effort,” Belton head coach Wendy Knight said. “It was tough to replace Bri Davis on defense and we moved Erica Anderson up. We spent a lot of time after last week working on rotations and they did everything that I asked them to do. You can’t ask anything more out of your kids than that. It allowed us to do what we wanted to do offensively. We put some key balls into the net when we needed to.”
The Rockwall game meant a great deal to the Lady Tigers, as it is a quality Region I team. Rockwall had been a mainstay in the DFW region for several seasons.
“I stressed to the girls that this win was important because it showed them that they can win against a quality team. They’re in our new region and we could potentially see them in a second or third round game. It was good for girls that they can see these teams and really compete.”
The Lady Tigers’ participation will be three-game, three-day series at Georgetown. The schedule is tight and potentially unkind to Belton in the first two games, as the Lady Tigers take on Odessa Thursday night at 8 p.m. on the track field right outside Georgetown Stadium (4411 Austin Avenue, Georgetown). They return at 9 a.m. Friday morning to take on Midlothian. The Saturday affair will be at 3 p.m. against former District 8-5A foe A&M Consolidated at East View High School (4490 E. University, Georgetown).