Celina girls soccer

Celina senior Emma Short was one of several Lady Bulldogs to record multiple goals during Friday’s 12-0 win over Caddo Mills in the regional quarterfinals.

ROYSE CITY — After winning their first two playoff games by a combined 31 goals, the Celina girls soccer team picked up where it left off Friday in the regional quarterfinals against Caddo Mills.

The Lady Bobcats recorded double-digit goals for the third time this postseason, continuing their torrid scoring clip after shutting out the Lady Foxes 12-0 from Royse City ISD Stadium.

The victory extends the Lady Bobcats’ deepest-ever playoff run into the regional semifinals. They’ll next take on Bullard at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Forney High School.

“The key to our game is that passing game. If we can get those combinations going early and get a little rhythm, good things happen,” said Steve Nichols, Celina head coach. “That’s been the case these first three rounds. It allows us to get on top and set the tone for the rest of the game.”

With lopsided playoff wins over Ferris (18-0) and North Dallas (13-0), Celina stayed hot on Friday — recording their 13th double-digit scoring effort on the season. Four different players logged multiple goals in the win, headlined by five from junior Taylor Zdrojewski to up her total on the season to 109. 

Senior Emma Short and sophomores Lexi Tuite and Mia Norman got in on the mix with two goals apiece, while sophomore Madi Vana also found the back of the net.

The blitz came early and often, with Celina peppering the Caddo Mills side of the pitch and seemingly creating scoring chances at will. If a ball shot on frame didn’t find the back of the net, it was likely batted out of bounds by the Lady Foxes for a Celina corner kick. 

The Lady Bobcats converted six of their goals off set pieces, which meant a productive night distributing the ball for senior Ashlyn Vana. She was responsible for taking Celina’s corner kicks, setting up teammates like Zdrojewski for a pair of headers that found the back of the net or placing the ball in the box where the Lady Bobcats scored off a scramble.

“We’re strong on set pieces like that, especially corner kicks,” Nichols said. “We’ve got some players who are good at flying to balls and Ashlyn Vana will put a ball on a platter in the box. I don’t know that there’s anyone better at those corner kicks. She’s even capable of bending one in herself from out there.”

Celina hasn’t had much trouble spreading the wealth this season, recording more than 240 goals on the year. In doing so, the Lady Bobcats have orchestrated their deepest playoff run ever — something they achieved on Tuesday when the team blanked North Dallas to advance past the area round for the first time ever.

“It’s special. This group has worked so hard. Everybody has had to overcome adversity this year with COVID … and I’m so proud of the job they’ve done,” Nichols said. “We’ve had some special teams in the past so for this team to be setting the tone when it comes to the longest playoff run, best record … for this team to have a run like this is a testament to the way they’ve worked.”

Nichols credited the team’s bond on and off the pitch all the same for paving their historic 2021 campaign.

“The thing that’s special with them is their chemistry and togetherness. Every team has good chemistry, but this group is special,” he said. “They all love each other and get along great together. They hang around together at school and they’ve all got a really good knack of keeping things loose and knowing when to turn up the pressure a bit. They know when to have fun and know when someone needs to be picked up a bit.”

At the same time, he’s aware that the blowout wins will dissipate as Celina advances further into the postseason. After three convincing victories, the Lady Bobcats will lock horns with one of the state’s elite in Bullard, ranked No. 9 in Class 4A by the Texas Girls Coaches Association. The Lady Panthers are 22-2-1 on the year and have surrendered just nine goals total.

“Bullard is going to be a top-flight opponent. They have an impressive record and an outstanding reputation,” Nichols said. “I know they’ll be strong and well-coached. We’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ve had a couple strong competitions but were hoping for more to prepare us for playoffs.

“… Hopefully in these games, we can find ways to create pressure internally to where even if the score is out of hand that we’re still working on things that’ll help us when we do play some of those top-level teams.”

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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