ABILENE - In more than half of the 12 seasons the Lady Lions soccer program has existed Brownwood has reached the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs, yet never advanced to a regional tournament.
Unfortunately for the Lady Lions, that trend continued Friday night at Shotwell Stadium with a 1-0 loss to the District 4-4A rival Abilene Wylie Lady Bulldogs in controversial fashion.
With 3:37 left in regulation, Wylie's Randie Dennison scored from 15 yards out, finding the bottom right corner out of the net as her shot eluded the diving save attempt by Brownwood's Channing Barron.
"From what I could see, we had the ball and we tried to play it quick like we've done all year trying to keep possession," said Brownwood first-year head coach Brent Hardwick, whose team suffered its fourth loss to Wylie (18-9-1) this season. "Hindsight is 20/20, but in that instance we probably should have been playing long to try and get it out of our end."
Wylie's goal came just nine seconds after Lady Lion Taylar Kinzler was given a yellow card for taunting the Wylie student section in the stands. Kinzler was forced to leave the field, and the Lady Bulldogs immediately made the most of her absence.
"What they said is she was taunting the crowd and throwing her hands up toward the crowd, which she wasn't," Hardwick said in regard to the referee's explanation for the yellow card. "She was just rotating in my humble opinion. They don't know Taylar like we do. She's not one of those players. She's an all-class player. She's not dirty, she doesn't cuss, she respects the game. To have that happen that late in the game and decide a game for you is heartbreaking."
Three yellow cards were dished out during the match - two for Brownwood, as Khloe Tobien received hers less than four minutes earlier, and one for Wylie which went to Dennison - and all came after halftime.
Brownwood's best chances to score came in the first half, with its only two shots on goal - both by Aleyia Cotton. With 20:16 to go in the opening, Cotton smoked a shot from 25 yards that fell into the Wylie goal keeper's Arianna Taylor's grip.
At halftime Wylie had recorded seven shots, with six on goal, to Brownwood's four with two on frame. The Lady Bulldogs fired three more shots on goal in the second half, and almost grabbed the lead with 13:57 to go. A header off a corner kick deflected off the crossbar and landed just in front of the goal before the Lady Lions could clear the ball. Wylie also took another shot with just under eight minutes left that Barron deflected over the net for one of her nine saves.
Coming off a 6-0 victory over Borger, while Wylie needed a shootout to escape San Elizario, the Lady Lions had hoped to wear down the Lady Bulldogs as the contest progressed.
"We followed the game plan exactly like we wanted to," Hardwick said. "With this crazy wind, we knew it was going to be a game of attrition, especially since Wylie had to go through two OTs and a shootout on Tuesday. We wanted to wear them down and knew eventually we would get our chances. But we had that little situation at the end. The game is the best teacher and we have to chalk this up to a learning experience."
For the fourth year in a row, the Lady Lions' season was ended by either district rival Wylie (2015) or Stephenville (2016, 2017) a win shy of the regional tournament. Wylie joins defending state champion and district rival Stephenville along with Midlothian Heritage and Fort Worth Castleberry at the Birdville ISD Athletics Complex next weekend for the Region I-4A tournament.
Brownwood finished with a 15-7 overall record, one of the best in the program's history. However, the Lady Lions will be losing seniors Madison Chesser, Haylee Allgood and Macy Smith - all captains - and Jaycee Lenz, who returned late in the season after an injury - for the 2019 campaign.
"I want to thank our four seniors for their effort," Hardwick said. "Buying into a new system with a new coach is extremely hard your senior year, but they handled it with grace and class. It was their leadership that made sure everyone else bought in and allowed us to have the season we had.
"They've come leaps and bounds since I got here. I'm so very proud of these girls. I love them to death, love them like they're my own. It's been a good ride and still a heck of a season. 15-7 is a pretty good record. There has to be a winner and a loser, every season has to end one way or another, we were just hoping this wouldn't be the last game of the season right here."