Although 2020 will go down as an unfinished season for high school soccer teams across the state, Lovejoy still found its share of success on the pitch.
Closing out their respective seasons with wins over Sherman on March 3, the Leopards and the Lady Leopards were in position to both qualify for the playoffs and perhaps hoist some district championship hardware.
Thanks to a verdict from the district’s athletic directors, the Lovejoy girls will at least get to enjoy the latter.
The Lady Leopards finished the regular season with a 6-2 record in 10-5A action and tied with McKinney North for second place. Both teams trailed Wylie East by one game in the standings.
Two matches remained in the conference schedule when play was suspended on March 13, and with both North and Lovejoy still in contention for first place, the district ruled that all three teams will share the 10-5A title.
The championship is the first in the Lady Leopards’ history, capping a year that saw the program go 13-6 overall and set its sights on a second consecutive postseason berth.
Central to the effort was a historic season submitted by senior Reagan Matacale, whose pair of assists in Lovejoy’s win over Sherman clinched both the program’s all-time and single-season assist records.
With 27 assists for her career, including 14 this season, Matacale capped her high school career as 10-5A’s midfielder of the year.
Matacale was one of just two seniors to earn an all-district nod, with Madison Quiroga picking up an honorable mention — meaning the cupboard will hardly be bare for Lovejoy in 2021. Sophomore Chester Tatum, junior Sadie Dale, junior Katie Welch and freshman Emmy Wood were all named to the first team, while junior Hailey Downing, junior Hannah Dunlap, freshman Maggie Manders and freshman Callan Snider earned second-team spots.
The Lovejoy boys, meanwhile, have plenty to look forward to as well next season between its star-studded duo of juniors Riley O’Donnell and Michael Myers — both of whom raked in all-district superlatives. O’Donnell, who led the team in scoring, split 10-5A MVP honors with North’s Hayes Malone, while Myers’ double-digit assist tally helped him to a share of the district’s midfielder of the year accolade.
Those two headline a loaded junior class that includes all-district first-team picks Gavin Goodwich, Sammy Merrick, Gavin Moore and Cade Novicke — seniors Michael Branch and Diego Rodriguez were also named to the first team — and helped pace Lovejoy to the top spot in 10-5A when its season abruptly concluded.
In line to secure their third district title in four years, the Leopards finished the year at 12-3-3 overall and 7-1 in district — suffering just one loss over their final 12 games of the season — on their way to a plus-16 goal differential against conference opponents.
They’ll look to continue that run next season with two-thirds of the roster projected to return, graduating an eight-player senior class that includes Cooper Ginsberg, Branch, Alan Beaney, Conner Tays, Rodriguez, Jake McTee, Quinn Stretcher and Jacob Britton.
Lady Leopards set to graduate include seniors Kamri McKnight, Matacale, Andee Richardson, Sydney Fluker, Quiroga and Sawyer Greek.