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Prep soccer: Lady Trojans headed to state semifinals
North Hall Keeper Mary Martin makes a diving save to give the Lady Trojans a win over St. Vincent in Saturday afternoon at The Brickyard at North Hall High.


Listen to North Hall coach Jerome Samuels talk about his team's trip to the state semifinals.

The North Hall girls soccer team felt an inner peace when time expired in overtime and headed into penalty kicks with the game tied 0-0 against No. 3 ranked St. Vincent’s Academy during Saturday’s Class AAA state quarterfinal.

The fifth-ranked Lady Trojans felt a natural advantage playing at the Brickyard and in front of a friendly crowd.

But the bulk of their confidence was pointed toward junior goalie Mary Mancin.

Mancin kept the Trojans (15-1-1) in the game with a couple of crucial blocked shots late in the second half, and once again in PK’s allowing only one shot in the net en route to a Trojans win 0-0 (3-1 in penalty kicks).

The Lady Trojans goalie said the key to keeping the Lady Saints in PK’s was focusing on their plant foot to know in advance which direction the ball would be traveling.

"We’ve been working on penalty kicks all season, and we know this field and every little bounce," Lady Trojans assistant coach Jerome Samuels said. "Mary set the tone for us ... We feel like we have the best goalie in the state."

With the win, North Hall is slated for its first appearance in the state semifinals, where it will play host to No. 1-ranked Blessed Trinity (14-1-1) on Wednesday night at the Brickyard. The start time is yet to be determined.

Blessed Trinity advanced to the state semifinals with a 10-0 win against Harris County on Friday night.

The Lady Trojans coach isn’t surprised at all that they have advanced to this stage in the state tournament this season with, what he describes as, a very balanced team in all phases of the game.

"I’m so proud of our team that we’re going to the final four," North Hall senior Laura Lane said. "And I am very excited that we’ll be playing the game right here at home."

As effective as Mancin was at protecting the net in penalty kicks, the Lady Trojans penalty takers were equally proficient.

Lane connected on the second kick for the Lady Trojans in penalty shots. Her body language after the kick showed everyone she was as fearful of the outcome as anyone else, as the ball hit off St. Vincent’s keepers hand and then into the back of the net.

"At first I was scared that I misplayed it," Lane said. "But I felt so much better when I saw it go in."

Tess Patton and Bradee Burrell added successful kicks in the extra frame to help the Lady Trojans prevail into the round of four.

After Burrell’s successful attempt, Mancin only had to make one more stop before the celebration could begin on the field with the Lady Trojans soaking in the magnitude of what they had accomplished.

"I can’t wait for the final four, we’re ready for it," Mancin said. "We’re used to this field and that home advantage is special to us."

For much of the second half, St. Vincent’s threatened to score playing much of the time on North Hall’s side of the field.

Time, and time again, the Lady Trojans’ defense withstood the pressure starting with a nice defensive block by senior Elizabeth Williams with 22 minutes left to play in the second half as both teams scrambled in the mouth of the goal.

In the next 15 minutes, Mancin recorded three solid saves on St. Vincent’s shots, including a missed header by Lady Saints senior Randy Friess.

With its quarterfinal win under their belt, the Lady Trojans are ready to get their chance at the top-ranked Lady Titans. The winner advances to the state finals.