There was a starling similarity between the East Side matches Tuesday, as Econ entertained Vela for the end of the first leg of district soccer action. Both the Jag squads were challenged well during the first half of play, and the boys’ and girls’ doubleheaders were level at the break, nil-nil.
Then nature asserted itself, with the more experienced sides gaining control of the action, Econ posting a pair of victories with a barrage of scoring. Coach Robert Garcia’s Lady Jags, having been stymied during the early stretches by an erratic Vela defense that made up for lapses in communication and clearing through sheer athleticism and will, broke through with 10 minutes gone in the second. A header by Alison Flores off a set piece from the corner put the first-place team ahead, and from there, the D took over.
Blanketing goal ace Chery Chavez with two and three defenders, the Lady Jags closed out a 3-0 result that was highlighted by extremely effective midfield and defense blocks that kept the Lady SaberCats at bay. Daring anyone else but Chavez to beat them, the Orange held their lead in the 31-6A top spot, as they dominated the mids and did not suffer more than five shots on goal all night.
Vela, coming in with a chance to break into the clear, standings-wise, toiled with earnest effort and never gave in, but Econ pushed two more late goals into the net to win going away, 3-0.
“I was really impressed by the way the girls came out in the second half,” said Garcia, whose side won despite having star Krysta Armstrong held scoreless for the first time in district this season. “They picked it up in the second half, they hustled and played together, it was one of our better halves of the season, no doubt.”
The Lady Jags as stated benefited from expert defensive work from a seasoned crew that had the gameplan intact, as Maria Ruiz was among the standouts in back for the burly, hard-hitting unit.
“We saw what they were trying to do and we adjusted,” said defensive leader Maritzela Guzman. “They were doing this, this, and this, so we just figured out how to stop them. We knew they had speed so we had to play smart, and we were able to do that.”
Vela scoring leader Chery Chavez, kept off the scoreboard like her nemesis, Armstrong, noted that the Lady Sabes will have to move forward after the loss.
“We could have done way better, so I am not satisfied,” said the captain, who like Armstrong and Lady Jag Ayssa Ozuna will be playing college soccer next season, probably for Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio. “We have some things we need to clean up, too many little mistakes tonight. We were a little nervous at first, I think, and it was a pretty rough game; they had some sharp elbows out there, just say that. But we are going to get back to work and do a better job next time.”
Defender Bri de Leon contributed the Play of the Year so far with a breakneck dash of 50 yards at the end of the first half to intercept a flash Econ counter in the Vela box, keeping the score at zeroes heading into the break.
JAGS SHUT OUT SABERCATS
Meanwhile the Jags were not only blanked by a spirited Vela charge in the first half; they found themselves down a point when SaberCat senior Carlos Aparicio located a mammoth long ball deep left and out-skilled the defender for a clean strike, which he netted at 29:07 of the second.
Then the Jags got going, as angular Mario Ferrer mastered a free kick off the boot of Juan Iracheta, slotting the equalizer at 24:20. Quickly, the Orange whipped to another pair of goals, dominating touch and riding past the slower Vela defenders. Abraham Alferez hammered in a loose ball created by a bad error in back, and at 24:09 it was 2-1, home side. Less than two minutes later, Jonathan Limon sliced a burner past the keeper from the right flank, sizzling the net at back post for a 2-goal advantage.
Later in the half the Jags tallied again, as Brandon Perez thrilled the crowd with a great goal, outfoxing a defender in the crease, with the keeper off line and out of the play, for the final notch of the night.
With the victory, the Jags finished the first half in the top four, points-wise, while Vela, after a very promising first 40 minutes, died on the vine amid the onslaught of offensive force against it.
The North boys kept their hold on second place with a 4-2 home result over pesky Vela. Carlos Aparicio brought the Sabes back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits with his ability to draw fouls in the box, but the Coogs tucked it away to sweep the season series between the two. North is on a 4-game winning streak heading into a showdown for first Tuesday at P-SJ-A Southwest. However, Econ slipped a beat with a 1-0 loss to EHS.
The Lady Coogs, desperate to recover from a surprise loss to P-SJ-A Tuesday, looked good with a 1-0 advantage late in the first half, having followed Econ’s strategy of surrounding Vela’s Chavez with defenders.
But Chavez banged in a pair of long free kicks and also scored on a penalty as Vela went from a goal down to two up in the space of six minutes. The 4-1 victory saw Chavez net all four goals, and the defense shut down North after allowing a Rios score five minutes after the opening pass.
Freshman Danya Selber played a sound game in back for Vela and is improving by the outing. Possessing speed, strength, and agility, she must but work on recognition of game situations to gain experience in order to maximize her considerable athletic upside.