It had been five years since the Hahnville Lady Tigers last felled archrival Destrehan on the soccer field, but Tuesday night brought that drought to an end — and kept Hahnville surging ahead in what’s been a breakthrough season.
Ashlyn Hooper and Ava Fontenot each scored goals as the Tigers earned a 2-0 shutout at home over the Wildcats and stayed in good position to host a potential Division I playoff matchup.
Hahnville (12-5-3, 3-1) entered the night ranked 10th in the state in the Division I power points rankings. But on this night, the focus of the players was squarely on finally besting a cross parish rival that’s had their number.
“It’s been five years!” Ava Fontenot exclaimed with a smile. “We really wanted this one for ourselves, especially because last season was kind of a rough one. But this year, we’ve been playing with a lot of confidence.”
Hahnville coach Alex Romero said this matchup was as much about preparing for the types of games that are awaiting his team in the playoffs as the obvious rivalry hype accompanying the contest.
“Through all the hard work we’ve put in during the year, we knew this was all there for us. We know we’ll be in the playoffs and there we’ll play tough teams like Destrehan who are competitive, who are fighters and who will give us every bit of everything they have,” Romero said. “Tonight we focused in staying disciplined and proving to ourselves that all of the hard work has prepared us for the playoffs. With the rivalry, obviously there’s a little more that comes with it, but it’s the same for playoff games.”
The teams were locked in a scoreless tie about midway through the first half when Hooper found the net in the 21st minute to give the Tigers a 1-0 advantage.
She said getting an early lead allowed she and her teammates to play more freely.
“Usually, when we fall behind early, it tends to set us back a bit mentally,” Hooper said. “But our game really picks up when we score first, and we play a lot better. So we try to strike early and I think it helped a lot again tonight.”
Each team had a few chances to set up a score in the final 20 minutes of the half – each team had free kick opportunities at the opposition’s end of the field — but the score remained 1-0 at half.
Early in the second half, Destrehan generated a scoring chance near the Hahnville net when Elissa Viquez found Stephanie Ruiz for a shot, which went just high of the crossbar. Later, the Tigers were able to successfully defend a Jordan Lemoine free kick by popping the ball back out before it could reach a Destrehan player for an opening.
At the other end, Destrehan goalkeeper Hope Berg made a few strong saves to keep Hahnville from establishing firm control, including a diving stop near the midway point of the second half.
But in the game’s 73rd minute, Fontenot was able to put home a goal to make it a 2-0 Hahnville lead and make Destrehan’s chances to rally remote.
“That was an incredible play by Ava, to fight off a couple of girls and finish with composure,” said Hahnville coach Alex Romero. “That comes down to confidence in herself, confidence in her abilities and confidence in her teammates … she made a great effort, but that started from our center backs. Ashlyn makes a fantastic ball and then Ava delivered.”
Fontenot said she had been slumping offensively in terms of goal scoring.
“I’d had a rough time with that this season, so I figured I’d take the shot and see if I could turn that around,” Fontenot said. “It felt amazing.”
Last season was a rebuilding season for Hahnville, who went to battle with a freshman-laden lineup. A year later, this is still a young roster, but an experienced one.
“We’re still not completely where we’re capable of, but we’re making strides. Maturity is the biggest difference,” Romero said. “Last year, those games we lost 1-0 or 2-1, now we’re tying or winning by a goal. We didn’t know how to win those games, but now we’re almost there, because those girls have 40 games of experience now. It’s very exciting as a coach to see it.”
For Destrehan (4-7-4, 2-2) a win would have been key to creating some breathing room in the postseason race. The Wildcats were 23rd in power points entering the night’s action, and 24 teams will qualify for the playoffs.
“We needed a good result today, but we fell short. We had our chances, some shots on goal … just couldn’t put it in the net,” said Destrehan coach Mert Deger, who guided the team to the Division II state quarterfinals last season. “This will hurt us a little. We have to get it going in the next five. Hahnville played a really good game tonight, credit to them. It was a good battle.”
Remaining games for the Wildcats include matchups with East St. John, Haynes, Lee (Destrehan’s second round playoff matchup a year ago), St. Charles Catholic and East Jefferson. A good mark in those would likely secure a spot in the postseason.
“But we need a spark,” Deger said. “We’ve gotta make it happen now.”
For Hahnville, the win cleared a hurdle. The teams in the district will only face one another once, so if a rematch were to take place between the rivals, it would have to be in the postseason.
The Tigers are primed to see how far they can go.
“Last year we had a lot of freshmen coming in and we were getting used to playing as one,” Hooper said. “This year, we’re realizing we can be as good as we want to be.”