HS Boys Soccer: Highlanders Soldier Through Rain to Seal Victory Against the Visiting Tigers

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 01/23/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The Woodlands Highlanders (6-1-2) triumphed over the Conroe Tigers (8-2) in a 2-0 victory through rough, changing weather conditions.

At the game's onset, a low-hanging fog swept across the pitch, making sightlines inconsistent for the players on the field.

The Highlanders seized the opportunity provided by the weather to play a strategic style that benefited from maintaining possession for prolonged stretches of the half. Conroe inadvertently aided this strategy by forcing long passes and through balls that frequently missed their mark.

Opportunities to score arose from the constant possession held by The Woodlands. A handful of corners and a freekick for the team were all turned away by the Tiger defense and the stellar individual effort from goalkeeper Axel Recinos.

The constant peppering of the goal by the Highlanders did manage to break through for points, as in the 13th minute, a through ball led to Patryk Janikowski sprinting towards goal where the ball met the back of the net for a 1-0 Woodlands lead.

For the remainder of the half, a strong, possessive defense from The Woodlands kept Conroe’s hopes of drawing even at bay. The best the Tigers could hope for in terms of offense was an opportunity for a counterattack, but the opportunity did not present itself.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Highlander Head Coach Jason Fanning spoke on the spirit of his team and how closely tied it is to the defense.

“That is the basis of Highlander soccer. If we score one, the game is over,” said Fanning. “We are going to press you and press you hard in order to prevent quality play from our opponents.”

Heavy rain began to set in as the first half drew to a close, causing both teams to focus on sound passing and bolstering the defenses further.

The wet field and ball caused a constant trading of possessions between the two teams. Conroe attempted to push with blistering pace while The Woodlands held for possession and methodically worked upfield.

The building pressure from the Tigers forced defenders to reach farther out to make plays on passes, resulting in two yellow cards against the Highlanders. But every time Conroe broke through the defense, Highlander keeper Ryan Mulbrecht turned the attackers away.

Following some on-field adjustments by The Woodlands, Conore’s aggression ended up bitting them down the stretch due to the Highlanders capitalizing on counters.

More often than not, The Woodlands were hit with offside infractions, but a handful of counterattacks broke through the Tiger defense and made shots on goal before being handled by Recinos.

But with nine minutes remaining, Woodlands midfielder Henrique Caputo broke free and scored a goal off a deflected shot that provided the cushion his team needed to feel secure.

The remainder of the game saw last-ditch attempts by the Tigers to get onto the scoreboard, but the sturdy defense and clean sheet from The Woodlands remained intact as the final whistle sounded.

The 2-0 victory for the Highlanders situates them at the top of the district, where the team hopes to keep things going the way they planned.

“There is no ball that’s rolling for us,” said Fanning. “We’re just going to do our thing and stick to our routine. We know it works, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Woodlands will hit the road and play Grand Oaks for its next match while Conroe licks its wounds and looks to bounce back against Oak Ridge at home on Friday.

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