As the season winds to the midway point Tuesday, the city soccer sides have held their own, to say the least. Econ and Vela are neck and neck at the top of the charts in 31-6A with P-SJ-A schools Southwest and Memorial right there as well.
The Lady Jags have done what they generally have done the past few years, which is throw an awesome offensive tandem out there twice a week. For three seasons-plus, Krysta Armstrong and Ayssa Ozuna have been goal hounds for the successful program; last year they combined for more than 60 goals in leading the Lady Jags to the title, and so far in 2017 have consistently been up to their wicked ways. Against Southwest in the battle for first place Tuesday, Econ trailed at the half, 2-0. But with midfielder Armstrong tallying twice and Ozuna also finding the range, the girls rallied into a 3-2 victory that left them atop the standings.
The Lady SaberCats, meanwhile, have relied for four seasons on the unstoppable little tornado that is Chery Chavez, and she never fails to pay dividends. Off to a fine start in league play, Vela whipped Pharr North Tuesday, 4-1, behind four more rockets from Chavez, who launched in five scores versus North back in January. Teammate Ayssa Arevalo has provided excellent work up front, freeing the elusive and relentless Chavez to slice and dice at will.
Though North started slowly, the Lady Coogs dominated EHS, 6-1 Tuesday thanks in no small part to the familiar predatory ways of senior Itzamar Rios, who capped a pair early and benefited from the excellent ball work of classmate Esmer Cano, whose slick handling and sharp passes have started to make a real difference for the club. Bottom line, each of the teams in town has weapons, and that includes EHS, for whom veteran Jessica Sierra is a ball hawk with impressive ability to reach the net on free kicks.
Econ’s Armstrong, with her deft touch and exquisite control on the pass, teams with Ozuna – the latter is fast and furious from the get-go out there – to give the Lady Jags a serious strike force.
As the race unfolds further this week, the attention will actually be on the various defenses, because the side that can up with a way to contain the opposing offensive stars just may wind up on top for 2017. Right now, bet on the quickness and athleticism of the Vela stoppers, or go with the size and strength of North’s backline. Econ has a little of both, truly, some bona fide bangers paired with speedy, smart Maritzela Guzman in front of the net.
To this end, the keeper who emerges as the hot hand in round two will have a bearing on the proceedings. None of the city minders has charged ahead as the No. 1 talent so far, so stay tuned. Midway home, Yoli Reyes of EHS and Julie Flores of Vela appear to be the favorites to contribute the most.
They’re still talking about the night that Chavez and Rios battled it out in the 31-6A opener, combining for eight goals between them. Who stops whom will be the question of the hour down the stretch
FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS
Econ kept the lead in 31-6A with a 4-0 result over Pharr North as Armstrong scored twice and the side got goals from Priscilla Vela and Laura Gonzalez as well. Vela, ahead of a showdown smash at Econ Tuesday, routed P-SJ-A 7-0 at Richard R. Flores Stadium as Chavez netted four. The Lady Sabes are tied with Southwest at 15 points, Econ occupying the first spot with 17.
North is hot now with three wins in four starts after a 2-1 victory over Memorial Friday, leaving the Lady Coogs one point off the playoff pace. North has allowed just five goals over that span, after having surrendered 13 the first two district nights.
In boys’ action Econ and North leapfrogged into a tie for third as the Jags (6-3 against Pharr North) and Coogs (3-0 versus Memorial) climbed past their Friday foes to take a 1-point lead over both. Vela went down at Richard R. Flores Stadium, but just 2-1 to the Bears. The SaberCat score came when senior Carlos Aparicio drew a second-half call in the box, and sophomore brother Ricky converted the subsequent penalty.