LONGVIEW -- The Kilgore High School girls soccer team was on a mission all year to get back to the UIL Class 4A state tournament. And they would not be denied.
Kilgore officially punched its ticket back to the state tournament in Georgetown next week, the Lady Bulldogs' second trip in three years, by claiming the UIL Region 2 championship at Longview's Lobo Stadium on Saturday morning.
Kilgore held off a scrappy Pleasant Grove team, 2-1, and will represent Region 2 in the 4A four-team event in Georgetown that begins on Wednesday with the state semifinals. Kilgore (20-5-2 on the season) will play an opponent to be decided at either 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
If Kilgore wins that state semifinal, the Lady 'Dogs, coached by Heidi Hagan, will play for the 4A state championship on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
The entire state tournament is played at Birkelbach Stadium in Georgetown. Kilgore fans have made that trip often in the last eight years, and for certain the last three: Kilgore's boys had reached the state tourney three years in a row before falling short this year, and the KHS girls are making their second trip in three years to the tournament.
In fact, there are still several players on this year's Kilgore's girls roster, now seniors, that were sophomores on that 2016 team that lost to Kennedale in the semis.
Kilgore had to fight for everything it had this week in the regional tournament at Longview. The Lady Bulldogs had a marathon battle with Mabank on Friday morning before finally getting by them in a shootout, a final combined score of Kilgore 7, Mabank 6.
Things weren't a lot different in Saturday's matchup with Pleasant Grove.
Kylie Nichols, who scored Kilgore's first goal of the game against Mabank on Friday, got that honor again, giving Kilgore a 1-0 lead with 31:10 left in the first half.
Leslie Bennett doubled their lead with 13:51 left in the half when she bounced the ball into the goal off a free kick by Tori Shipman.
Pleasant Grove cut Kilgore's lead in half, scoring on a goal by Delia Tuttlebee with 10:36 left.
But in spite of Pleasant Grove's best efforts, they couldn't tie the game in the second half. Kilgore goalkeeper Sarah Loomis worked hard, and had a couple of key saves, including one with about seven minutes left.
At the buzzer, Kilgore's sideline ran onto the field to celebrate, and now the Lady Bulldogs will wait and see who their opponent will be on Wednesday for the semifinal.
Come back here to kilgorenewsherald.com later for an update.