HOUSTON - Every senior class strives to be remembered for something.
Lutheran South Academy's Braden Leimkuehler, Darryl Scheer, David Aguilera and Eli Garrabrant are ones that won't be soon forgotten for their accomplishments on the pitch.
The Class of 2021 leaves LSA soccer with three district championships, three trips to the TAPPS Final Four and the 2018 TAPPS Division II State Championship.
Definitely, a class that won't be forgotten.
"They set the example year-in and year-out," LSA soccer coach Nate Hagge said. "Their success says a lot about who they are and helping set our program as a good program that can compete with anybody. It's just a testament of commitment every single year coming back and encouraging the players. This year as seniors their leadership was remarkable. They never were down, weren't ever discouraging and they really led with a heart of love."
The Pioneers reached the TAPPS Divison II State Semifinals on Tuesday in Round Rock with hopes of returning to the state title match. LSA fell short to TMI-Episcopal, 3-1, bringing an end to their season.
SOUND 🔊 UP: @lsaathl men’s soccer netted a late goal in the TAPPS State Semis on a gorgeous header by senior Darryl Scheer | #vypecampus @VYPE_Live @LethalSoccer @LSAPioneers @lemon_leim02 @TAPPSsoccer pic.twitter.com/hXqMdBiR3Q— vypehouston (@vypehouston) March 3, 2021
Despite the result, the overall accomplishments of a career can't be overlooked.
"It means a lot, I started out shadowing the goalkeeper when we won state three years ago," Leimkuehler, who finished with more than 100 saves in goal this season, said. "That was something to shoot for. Now, just being a part of this team and growing with them the past two years, it's been great. We're such a tight-knit team and we never got on each other. I think that's a good legacy to leave for future teams."
As Hagge took time standing on the field to reflect, a few moments popped into his mind from a year he will never forget.
Guiding the team through a season where COVID-19 would dictate schedules and player availability was challenging but the team never flinched when adversity arose.
"Their flexibility and perseverance and love towards each other to make it work no matter what," Hagge said.
Highlights of the season included hosting their own tournament at LSA, beating the British School 2-0 was big but the most memorable moment was coming back against The Woodlands Christian Academy after being down 1-0 at the half and scoring four goals in 10 minutes in the second half to secure that win.
After reflecting for a couple of days, Hagge said it will be time to look towards 2022 already, which looks once again promising for the Pioneers soccer program.
Of their 11 starters from the state semifinal on Tuesday, eight will be back in uniform next spring. They will have to replace the sure hands of Leimkuehler in goal, Scheer's speed, Aguilera in the midfield, and Garrabrant's offensive output (23 goals, 14 assists).
"We do have a good corps coming back as long as we can fill holes like Braden [Leimkuehler] in goal and Darryl [Scheer] at center back and Eli [Garrabrant]. If we can find comparable players to fill that I think we will be good again. Our midfield will be back, we have a good set on defense.
"It is something to look forward to."
The Pioneers will return Jace Windom in the midfield, who had 19 goals and 18 assists this year. Also back will be Eli's little brother Silas, who netted four goals and four assists. Matthew Giugliano (five goals, five assists) and Nick Hatch (three goals, one assist) are also set to return.
As Leimkuehler walked off the soccer field for the last time as a Pioneer, the LSA-lifer reflected on what this has all meant to him.
"I've been at LSA since Pre-K, so basically it's been my whole life," he said. "Soccer was kind of a hidden passion of mine. I didn't start playing until the seventh grade and I just realized that I wasn't good with my feet, so I decided to use my hands. I just stayed in goal, getting sessions, training, and working with the coaches. It's meant a whole lot to me."
VYPE Postgame: @lsaathl senior GK Braden Leimkuehler talks with us after the match | He finished with more than 100 saves in his senior season #vypecampus @LSAPioneers @lemon_leim02 @EliGarrabrant pic.twitter.com/2iEAMR72dt— vypehouston (@vypehouston) March 2, 2021