Tahlequah Daily Press

High School Sports

April 29, 2014

Playoff prep

Tahlequah girls getting ready for likely playoff matchup with Claremore; Tahlequah boys miss postseason

After missing the 2013 state soccer tournament, the Tahlequah Lady Tigers are looking to play at least two more games.

Despite a 5-2 loss Thursday night at No. 8 Cascia Hall, the Lady Tigers (5-6, 4-3) are playoff-bound thanks to an April 22 2-0 upset of then-ranked Shawnee. That win gave Tahlequah the tiebreaker over the Lady Wolves and clinched the fourth and final playoff spot from District 5A-4.

“It’s a big deal for the girls,” Tahlequah coach Gary Hall said. “That was one of our objectives going into the year was to make it to the postseason. Now that we’re here, made it three of the last four years. They want to not just make it, but go farther than just the first round.”

The other three 5A-4 teams heading to the state tournament — Coweta, Cascia Hall and Edison — are a combined 28-8, are all ranked in the top 10 in Class 5A and account for three of the Lady Tigers’ six losses this season. Each squad is also 6-1 in district play as of Monday night, with Tulsa Edison as the only team with a district match-up left on the calendar. The No. 8 Lady Eagles (8-4, 6-1) play Shawnee (6-6, 3-3) Tuesday night for a chance at the district title outright.

“I’m just really proud of the girls,” Hall said. “We got thrown into a tough district and they’ve fought all the way. Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time. We’re really excited at the opportunity to play for a state championship.”

With Tuesday as the last day for districts across the state to finish up regular season play, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association will not release the playoff brackets until later this week. However, all signs point to the Lady Tigers opening the postseason against No. 2 Claremore (10-1, 7-0). The 5A-3 champions, the Lady Zebras are undefeated against 5A teams this season, with its lone loss coming in its season opener at Class 6A Sapulpa on March 7. Despite Claremore’s winning streak, Hall’s team is not doing anything different to get ready for the first round.

“It’s just practice as usual for us,” he said. “Nothing out of the ordinary. We’re just trying to prepare for another game.”

The Class 5A soccer playoffs start May 6.            

Meanwhile, the Tahlequah boys’ soccer team ended its season Thursday night in midtown Tulsa. Needing an upset of No. 8 Tulsa Cascia Hall to have a chance at qualifying for the postseason, the Tigers dropped a 5-1 decision to the Commandoes. The Tigers end the 2014 season with a 5-6 overall record and a 3-4 mark in district play.

“I’m just really proud of how our kids rose the occasion” Tahlequah coach Gary McClure said. “They knew their backs were against the wall a couple of times. They played really well against No. 1 East Central and Cascia. We knew the deck was stacked against us and they stepped up, played really well those games, even when they knew they wouldn’t make the playoffs.”

Similar to their female counterparts, the Tigers faced a stiff district slate, with four of the eight 5A-4 teams — East Central, Cascia Hall, Edison and Coweta — ranked among the top 10 in Class 5A. However, unlike the Lady Tigers, McClure’s team had several latecomers thanks to wrestling and basketball, making it difficult for the Tigers to gel defensively until late in the season. Despite scoring in all but one game this season — a 2-0 shutout by No. 6 Edison — Tahlequah gave up at least one goal in eight of its 11 games, including seven of the eight games played against 5A teams.

“It just took us a while to figure out how to play together,” McClure said. “In the end, it was just too little, too late.”

With several defensive players slated to return next season, McClure expects that side of the field to be the Tigers’ strength in 2015.

“We feel that we’ve found a great potential goalkeeper who is a sophomore,” he said. “And goalkeeping was one of our big question marks going into this season. I feel like what took us so long to build this year was defense, but with a core group of players returning, I think that will be our strongest point next season. Hopefully our offense will catch up next year in district play when it counts.”

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