REDEMPTION: LEE boys soccer tops Rockwall Heath, wins UIL Class 6A State title

Bowland tallies goal, assist in 2-0 victory, named game’s MVP

GEORGETOWN – Two years. Twenty-four months. Seven-hundred and twenty eight days.

However you want to quantify it, the LEE boys soccer team has been waiting a long time for a chance at redemption. After walking off the field on the wrong end of a penalty-kick shootout loss to Flower Mound in the state title match in 2019, the Vols have been dead-set on returning to finish the job. Last year’s entire playoff run was thwarted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, after several hard-fought games throughout the Regional tournament and a 2-0 victory over Jersey Village in the state semis on Tuesday, they finally got their chance to get the taste of 2019′s bitter loss out of their mouths.

On Saturday night, they did just that.

The Vols scored a pair of goals and pitched their second shutout of the state tournament, defeating Rockwall Heath 2-0 in the UIL Class 6A State Championship game at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown. It’s the soccer program’s first state title, and LEE’s first title in over 50 years.

“It couldn’t be anymore sweet,” head coach David Rogers said. “We’ve been knocking on the door for four years at the Regional Finals, State Finals, undefeated last year, and the only thing that was missing was a state championship. The boys came through and we’re state champs for a reason. They wanted it, they’re hungry, and it was definitely impressive the way they played today.”

Senior captain Henry Bowland opened the scoring in the 15th minute of play. Julian Sanchez found Bowland with a cross into the box and he buried his shot in the back of the net to give LEE a 1-0 lead. Bowland had another opportunity to score late in the first half on a penalty kick, but his attempt ricocheted off the crossbar and stayed out.

A similar narrative played out in the second half. In the 15th minute, off a free kick, Bowland found Giovani Garcia cutting to the net for a well-placed header, and the Vols held a 2-0 advantage. Senior goalkeeper Joey Batrouni and the defense pitched a shutout in the face enormous offensive pressure from the Hawks over the final 25 minutes, and LEE secured their long-awaited title. For factoring into both of the Vols’ goals, Bowland was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

“It’s a dream come true, really,” Batrouni said. “The past two years has been dreadful work of getting back to the state final. We could have done it last year, but we got our season ruined by COVID. This year, we had our chance, and we did it. We won state, and I’m proud of these boys for what they accomplished.”

“It’ll be a lot more crazy on the bus ride back home,” Bowland said. “Right now, we’re just soaking it in, being a part of history, on the right side of it this time. It’s just amazing.”

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