Jasmyn Jackson

Jasmyn Jackson is Gainesville’s leading scorer this season with 24 goals.

The road wasn’t as easy this year, but the Gainesville girls fought their way back to the playoffs.

The Lady Leopard soccer team will face Mabank at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Melissa High School in bi-district action. The Gainesville boys will play afterward.

Mabank (15-5-5) won District 12-4A and is seeking its first playoff win since 2019.

Gainesville (7-13-2) won a district championship last year, but the path was tougher this time. Not only did the Lady Leopards move into a district with the defending state champions, but injuries took away last year’s district MVP and a starting defender within the first week.

Gainesville coach Hector Sagrero said those injuries were tough on an already young team.

“I think it took a toll on us,” Sagrero said. “Not just those girls, but the whole team. Girls had to step up and play a position that they’re not used to, but I think everybody played their role. At the end of the day, we were trying to be district champions, but at the same time, we were working at making the playoffs, and we were capable of doing that.”

Gainesville losing one of its top scorers for the year was a big blow to a team which had already lost another to graduation. That left Jasmyn Jackson, the third of the Lady Leopards’ top scoring threats a year ago, to pick up the slack. She has done the job thus far, scoring 24 of Gainesville’s 39 goals.

Jackson stepped up on offense, but the Lady Leopards also needed someone to take charge on defense. Sagrero said sophomore Isabel Hernandez has distinguished herself.

“She was really quiet at first, but I kept preaching to the girls that we need somebody to be a leader,” Sagrero said. “We have Natalie Montoya, who’s a senior, but she can’t do it all by herself. So, Isabel kind of took that role on and started acting as a leader, pushing girls, holding each other accountable even without me having to say something to her. So, she just took it upon herself to do it.”

The Lady Leopards finished district play March 8, so they had last week open for spring break. The boys practiced three times during the week, and Sagrero had planned for the girls to do the same.

Instead, Sagrero said when he asked his players which three days they wanted to practice, they insisted on practicing every day, which he said is a great example of their determination to advance.

Mabank won’t be an easy foe. The Lady Panthers’ only district loss came to second-place Sunnyvale after they had clinched the district title.

As challenging as it will be, Sagrero said Gainesville has a shot.

“They have a solid midfield, a good core group of girls that control the game in the midfield.” Sagrero said. “So, I think with our high press and just really standing them up will definitely help us out. As long as we take away those three girls in the midfield, then I think we have a chance to win.”

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