All season, Ranger College head coach Rafael Gonzalez reminded his team the key to their success was simple: Play with more energy and finish.
Ranger, which had struggled to a winless 0-4 mark in regional play during the regular season, brought more than enough energy on Thursday afternoon in the semifinal round of the Region V Soccer Championships. They scored twice in the second half and raced to a 3-1 victory over Hill College.
"We've been training since our last defeat (to Hill)," said freshman Jarrell McMasters. "We were training a specific formation to stay at the half and defend. It worked. We played with a lot of energy and played hard on defense."
"With the energy they had today, and the energy we got with this win, we're unstoppable," he said. "These guys are playing with heart. We have a lot of talent but they're forgetting about that talent and just playing hard. It is hard to beat a team that plays with heart."
"They showed up and finished against a really good Hill team. They never quit," he said.
With the victory, Ranger moves into the tournament finals to face off against Western Texas College. The two teams will face off at 5 p.m. on Saturday at The Depot in Cleburne.
Giovanni Clarke, a freshman forward from Kingstown, St. Vincent, made sure the Rangers got off to a quick start against the Rebels, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed. Clarke broke toward the Hill goal in the 17th minute of the contest. Just inside the box, he made a left-footed pass across the front of the goal to McMasters who powered the ball past the Hill goalie for the game's first point.
The region's leading scorer in the regular season, McMasters' first postseason goal came with 32:45 left in the first half.
Hill, which had scored seven goals in their two regular-season wins against Ranger, looked to have pulled even late in the first. The Rebels managed to push a rebound shot past RC's Juan Cedillo at the 9:20 mark of the half. The goal, however, was taken off the board when the Rebels were whistled for be offsides.
Ranger tacked on a second goal just three minutes into the second half and built a 2-0 cushion.
Hill fought its way back to within 2-1 minutes later, scoring with about 39 minutes left in the second half.
McMasters salted away the win at the 18:59 mark of the frame by drilling a shot past the Rebels' goalie from about 15 yards out.
Clarke said the win was special but the best part of advancing was the team's ability to stick to its game plan.
"It (the win over Hill) feels very good," he said. "The last two games with Hill we lost. But the key was we came up with a good plan and executed it."