At the end of simply nutty night, there she was, all calm, explaining how she had run under a fine centering pass to volley in the game-winner with just six minutes left in the District 31-6A opener.
But that’s Chery, after all, cool as can be, even amid a madcap and zany match that ended breathlessly with Vela on top of visiting North, 6-5. The senior standout could not remember ever playing a game with 11 total goals, but fresh in her mind was the outstanding pass from Valeria Tanguma, lofted from the right wing.
“I saw it coming and I just went for it,” said Chavez, who tallied five times Tuesday to go with a golazo from teammate Ayssa Arevalo. “Some girl hit me as I slid in but kicked it by her.”
Simple as that but this one was anything but, as the two teams stood toe to toe and slugged it out with abandon. Ironically, for the first 25 minutes, the only scores were penalty kicks, Chavez evening the count at 1-1 after North’s cannon leg, Natalie Becerra, had put her side in front with a PK at 24:44.
From there, neither side had much luck at stopping the other, Vela using the speed of its forwards and North depending on sending long powerful balls into the zone. The last 15 minutes of the half were manic as the squads combined for three goals. For awhile there it looked like North’s answer to Chavez, the fierce and angular Itzamar Rios, was going to win this thing all by herself.
Putting a 3-point night into the books, Rios answered two goals from Chavez; at 7:32 (set up by a tremendous Arevalo run) and 3:24 (after Arevalo’s unreal second effort to regain a loose ball again set the table for the splendid senior). Rios chased down a bouncer, and no one chases harder; with the keeper off her line, the North predator knew what to do, controlling and popping one over the minder’s head. Thus it was 3-2, Vela, at 2:22.
With that explosion of offense, the stars were apparently not sated because the hits just kept on coming in a very entertaining league opener. Tricky sophomore Elvira Torres nearly equalized eight minutes in to the second roll, pasting a bomb past the irons. Rios managed to tie it at 30:19 with an absolute domination of three defenders after finding another high bouncer, this time with the wind: she maneuvered around a tangled knot of Lady Sabes for the score.
Next up in the highlight reel was the aggressive Arevalo, who sped downfield, wide left, and launched a long and lethal rocket that regained the lead for her side, at the 25-minute mark.
Coach Tonya Garcia’s team had been through a rough patch in the weeks leading up to district, and she knew her girls needed to start the slate with a W to get their confidence back. And when Vela went up shortly thereafter, things were looking pretty nifty. The electric Chavez outran the North defense to pounce on a thru ball and dent the net.
But just 90 seconds later, the Lady Coogs narrowed the gap to one. From the 24-minute mark, the going got rough as the teams battled tooth and nail, Bri de Leon holding forth in back for Vela and the North D – rugged and good-size though missing starter Red Cantu (basketball) – able to keep Vela off pace.
Suddenly, with 10 minutes left, disaster for the home side as after a defensive breakdown, Vela surrendered a free kick to boomer Becerra, who shot one in for the tie at 5-5.
It was a wild atmosphere then as neither school wanted to end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, especially after such a spirited brawl. After Tanguma – who was very physical Tuesday – made the grand entry, to even grander result from the amazing Chavez, the Lady Sabes had to come up with one more burst to win the day.
It came from rangy sophomore Soli Garcia, who raced into the crease to defend, destroying a fine last-ditch North effort that was perilously close to creating another deadlock. Thanks to that athletic saving play at 2:50, Garcia and Co. were able to head into Friday’s road game at EHS with a 1-0 mark.
“We were lethargic for awhile, and some of the younger kids were a little intimidated,” the coach exclaimed. “But they will grow out of that, in time. We had been having some bad days lately but to get the win tonight, well, it gives us back some confidence. We hadn’t been clicking, hadn’t been able to utilize Chery enough. But we started getting it going, they were really connecting out there, the passes were great, and we finished fast. This was an important win for us, no doubt.”
NOTES: Econ bested EHS, 3-1 Tuesday and then followed that up with a victory Friday, 3-2 over Memorial, after penalty kicks. North was outplayed by Southwest Friday to drop to 0-2, while Vela romped over the Lady Bobcats of EHS, 3-0. Vela sophomore Krysten Calvillo has been impressive in the midfield so far, showing speed and aggression.