Bears Blank JPII to Claim TAPPS Crown

The Ursuline soccer tradition rolls on. Congratulations to these ladies for their third consecutive TAPPS state title. (Photo: Bert Hosea)

WACO — The tradition continued.

Ursuline topped district foe Plano John Paul II 2-0 on Saturday to win its 27th TAPPS state title in 28 years, including the last three in a row.

The Bears (22-2) took control of the game early. Erin Hurlburt played a perfect ball to Adrienne Bland, whose header found the back of the net only a minute into the game. It was Bland’s fourth goal in the playoffs and 11th goal overall this season.

“Scoring in the first minute of the game was so crucial,” said Ursuline head coach Kelly Thompson. “JPII took control for a little bit in the middle of the first half, but we made some adjustments at halftime and took over the second half completely.”

The Bears possessed the ball for 27 of the 40 minutes in the second half against the Lady Cardinals, who were playing for their first state title. Lyndsey Hover sealed the win with a beautiful goal from 10 yards out with less than three minutes remaining in the game.

“I usually don’t score because I’m usually not that far up [on the field],” said Hover, who moved from stopper to midfielder this season because of team injuries. “I don’t think I could end my soccer career any better.”

Ursuline’s defense was once again the standout. Reagan Byers recorded her 18th shutout with 11 saves. Jayden Gill and Sofia Garcia solidified the back line along with Anna-Kate Coker, who man-marked John Paul II’s Abbi Bennett. Byers started this season after backing up Leah Archer for three years.

“Sofia is a rock star,” Byers said. “She goes in hard on tackles. We knew JPII was just going to try to send the ball over and have their top player run on it. Their leading scorer [Bennett] struggled to get through.”

The Bears have not allowed a goal in the playoffs since a 2-1 loss to Bishop Lynch in 2015. Ursuline only allowed three district goals this season, and outscored their four postseason opponents by a combined 16-0.

Ursuline’s seven seniors were freshmen during Thompson’s first year at the school. Players call every teammate their “second family.”

“This team is so bonded together, but we aren’t playing this game just for us,” Hover said. “It’s for all the girls who have worn this jersey.”