ENNIS – The Palestine Wildcats are on the cusp of returning to the state soccer tournament for the first time in three years after edging past Nevada Community, 1-0, Tuesday night in Ennis.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats were pinned against the 12th ranked Community Braves in the class 4A regional semifinals. Community had outscored their past six opponents 24-1 heading into Tuesday night's game, but this match proved to be different for the visiting team.
Out the gate, Ty Carnes kicked a rocket from about 25 yards out to give the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead two minutes into play.
The power of 16 mile per hour winds floated the kick just over Community's towering goalkeeper. From there, it became a defensive match – which played right into the hands of Palestine's defensive oriented system.
“Community began to argue out of frustration being without a goal for so long,” head coach John Absalom said. “When you get that quick goal you begin to build up confidence, which is good for this young group that we have.”
Palestine took a 1-0 lead into halftime. The slight advantage that enjoyed kicking with the wind behind them would be flipped in favor of Community in the second half as winds picked up to nearly 20 miles per hour.
“We had to change our formation the first half to adjust to the conditions,” Absalom said. “Second half we moved some kids around to try and be more defensive minded.
Undeniably, between the coaches and players, the player who arose for the Wildcats in the final half was their goalkeeper, Jesus Vigil, who had five critical saves down the stretch to secure his second consecutive clean sheet of the playoffs.
“[Vigil] stepped us for us in that second half,” Absalom said. “He made some phenomenal saves. A few of those I was for sure they were going in. I don't know how we made some of those saves tonight. I'm very proud of him.”
The Wildcats move on to the regional finals to play the Celina Bobcats. Celina upset the third-ranked Paris Wildcats by a score of 3-2 Tuesday night.
Celina is currently ranked 24th overall.