LAREDO – Attempting to follow the usual ritual with a trip out west to pry the lid off the soccer season, the city girls’ teams found obstacles but also promise over the weekend at the Border Olympics tournament. Though each team located itself somewhat, on the season map, focusing on weaknesses and building on string points, the overarching adversity could not be sidestepped.
After a spirited effort Thursday the schools got two games in Friday at one or more of the tournament’s four sites. The weather had turned precipitously, however, with the temperature dropping from the 70s into the low 30s, so the final afternoon set for Saturday was cancelled.
Still, the experience was a positive one overall. For North and veteran Coach Danny Valdez, the tourney marked the beginning of a journey with a bevy of underclassmen.
“We have 10 sophomores this year so it’s going to be interesting,” said Valdez, who was also missing two injured starters and two grade casualties due to return after the semester turn. “So we are struggling a little. But I think in time we can get where we need to be.”
Illustrating the team’s inexperience, the Lady Coogs surrendered a late lead Thursday against Laredo Nixon, allowing a penalty kick in the last three minutes to suffer a tie. They defeated St. Augustine the next day but lost a 1-0 result to Eagle Pass Winn. North has size on defense and speed up front with senior Itza Rios, who was bothered by a sore shin out in Laredo. Stylish vet Esmer Cano is the other Lady Coog with bona fide chops in the middle, while clever sophomore Elvira Torres will be counted on to contribute this year.
Meanwhile, Vela made a solid showing at the Border Olympics with a pair of wins and then a 1-0 loss to Nixon Friday in the frigid conditions. Coach Tonya Garcia knows that senior Chery Chavez, a four-year starter, can score with the best of them. And that deft defender Bri de Leon is among the top defenders in the league. Keeper Julie Flores is an outstanding punter whose box reactions have greatly improved.
Count Garcia among the coaches who feel that club soccer is a plus for the high school ranks.
“I know some coaches are not big on elite or club ball, but I like it because it gives our girls extra work,” said the second-year mentor, whose daughter Soledad is a strong and speedy wing. “For Sole her time with the Toros has really been a life-changing experience, and she has improved a lot from last year.”
The Lady Sabes are working without athletic sophomore Allie Torres, out for two months with a foot injury, but have integrated some strong newcomers into the mix, and expect to be able to contend for a title. One of last year’s prized rookies, sophomore Ayssa Arevalo, was hobbled with a sprained ankle over the weekend, but in the team’s opener Tuesday had been impressive at Pioneer. The Lady Sabes grappled with the excellent Lady Diamondbacks in a 2-1 loss, boding well for the wars to come.
At the Border Olympics, EHS battled hard, losing twice against powers United and United South while beating Alexander. Coach Serjio Elizarraraz is without two of last year’s standouts right now, but has moved physically dominant newcomer Katy Truitt into the lineup at forward to go with returning hustler Leslie Sierra in the middle and rugged Juana Garza on defense.
“We’ve played alright against some tough competition,” said the coach, who will get soph Debony Rodriguez back from concussion protocol this week in time for the BISD Tourney in Brownsville. “We’re just trying to work hard and get better every game.”
It came as no surprise that Econ was sharp at the tourney, winning three times without allowing a goal. The Lady Jags have to be considered a favorite to repeat their district title from 2016 as seniors Krysta Armstrong and Ayssa Ozuna are better than ever.
Operating in the midfield, the well-skilled Armstrong is deadly with her passes, while the flying Ozuna is an expert at locating the ball and slotting it with alacrity. The defense is led by returning stars Maritzela Guzman and Jazmine Muniz, making Robert Garcia’s squad a tight unit from front to back.
At Laredo, Econ finished second overall on goal differential, behind declared champ United South.
NOTES: Three of the four boys’ teams played at Mission over the weekend and all had their moments. North and Econ finished third in their groups, Vela second and combined the schools went 8-6.
The SaberCats fought Sharyland in a 2-1 loss and then were beaten by United, 1-0. Econ started slowly with a pair of losses but then won three in a row, including a shutout of Cigarroa. The Coogs went the opposite route, posting three wins in succession before dropping contests to Nixon and Weslaco East.