By Colby Gordon / Special Contributor
ROUND ROCK — Even in the sport of soccer, an inch or two can affect the course of an entire game.
That was the case for the Covenant girls on Tuesday, as Naomi Watts’ potential game-tying shot in the first half was deflected off the crossbar and landed in play instead of in the goal.
It was an unlucky bounce for the Knights, who went on to lose 2-0 to Schertz John Paul II in the TAPPS Division III championship game at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex.
“I think that changes things if that goes in,” Covenant head coach Kirk Redding said. “I think it would have changed the way the girls were playing and their demeanor. Overall, we just didn’t play very well.”
In a rematch of last year’s title game that the Knights won 3-1, Covenant (18-6) fell behind almost immediately when Guardians forward Emilie Rompel scored on a shot from 25 yards out just 55 seconds into the match.
A few moments later, John Paul goalkeeper Taylor Smierciak got a fist on Watts’ shot that came from well outside the box, keeping the Knights scoreless. It would represent Covenant’s best scoring chance.
The Guardians dominated the rest of the first half, with Knights goalkeeper Sadie Hill being peppered with shots and making several key saves to keep the game at 1-0 going into halftime.
John Paul forward Cecilia Lopez received her second yellow card at the start of the second half, which gave Covenant a player advantage and allowed them to control a good portion of the flow of play, but they still struggled to threaten on offense.
Kaitlin Swann — who scored twice in last year’s game and is getting interest from several Division I college programs — played well and had several shots down the stretch, and Mimi Brown’s deflection off a corner kick was blocked. But other than that, Covenant rarely put any shots on goal.
“Sadie Hill played a great game and kept us in it, but I honestly think we could’ve gotten beat much worse with the way we played today,” Redding said. “You have to give [John Paul] a lot of credit as they really came out and played well.”
Madison Migura gave John Paul its insurance goal in the 63rd minute when she settled a great cross from Rompel and found the far corner of the net. It assured the Guardians would regain the title after previously winning it in 2020.
“Unfortunately, there has to be a winner and a loser, but I thought Covenant was good today,” John Paul head coach Caolan O’Gorman said. “I thought we showed good character in the second half as being down to 10 players, still faring well is a really good credit to the girls.”
It marked an end to the Knights’ 14-game winning streak, and Redding noted he was proud of his team for returning to Round Rock and having the chance to defend last year’s title, which was the first in program history.
“We had a lot of new faces come into the team and we started off 1-4,” he said. “But once we settled in and got people into the right places, we started playing really well.”