SAGINAW - With two regional tournament appearances in the last three seasons and a trip to the state tournament in 1999, the type of success Ryan has had this season isn't necessarily uncharted territory.
Yet, after its fourth straight blowout to open the Class 4A playoffs, long-time head coach Raiford Malone couldn't help but note the obvious.
Even compared to its successful predecessors, this Raiders team is far from average.
"This group has a lot of talent," he said. "This group has more potential to go further than any team I've ever coached."
That talent was on full display Tuesday night as, despite a sleepy, scoreless first half in which it dominated the tempo but not the scoreboard, Ryan used a huge second half to blow by Granbury 6-0 on Tuesday in Saginaw and advance to the Class 4A Region I tournament this weekend.
The Raiders move on to face either El Paso Del Valle or Abilene Wylie on Friday at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls.
Ryan (24-2-1) has been nothing short of dominant in the playoffs so far this year, following up a perfect 12-0 run through District 11-4A by outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 28-0 through four postseason games.
That figure includes Tuesday's win over Granbury (18-8), which entered the game winners of 13 of its last 14 games and fresh off of capturing its first district title in school history.
Early on, it looked like that momentum might have a chance to hold as Ryan went scoreless in the first half for the first time this postseason despite controlling the flow of the game and holding Granbury without a shot.
The Raiders had seven shots in the first half compared to zero for Granbury, who never had a real scoring chance despite keeping the score tied with physical defense that kept Ryan's potent offense out of sync.
"Honestly I don't think we were completely in the game emotionally," Malone said. "[Granbury] came out to play. They outplayed us in the first half - not possession-wise, no, but they physically out played us. We weren't sharp in putting our passes together. We weren't spreading the field and making good scoring opportunities."
After a break at halftime, all of that changed in a hurry.
Ryan broke the scoring drought just over four minutes into the half after Ashlyn Hamilton scored off of a Stevie Harris corner kick to give her team the decisive advantage. Two minutes later, junior Lindsey Eccles put the Raiders up by two after taking a pass from Taylor Maxson and punching the ball past Granbury goalkeeper Kim Bantz.
That opened the floodgates for Ryan, which went on to score at the 28:45 mark on a goal by Harris and again at the 21:38 mark after an Ashlee Beitinger goal. Kirby Wright added another score late in the half, followed less than a minute later by Eccles' second goal of the night.
"We were a different team," Malone said. "We played more of our type of game. We picked up the pace, we moved the ball a lot quicker and it just created more openings and more chances. That's the way we need to play, like we did in the second half."
Eccles, who now has 26 goals on the year, has scored at least two goals in every one of Ryan's playoff wins thus far. Harris, meanwhile, had two assists to go along with her goal. Taylor Guitteriez, Hamilton, Eccles and Beitinger all added assists.
MARSHALL MOORE can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com .