The playoffs are here in soccer and five city teams have advanced past the regular season, with various complications. Both squads from North and Econ are in the postseason along with the Vela girls, and the action gets started this week (finally). There has now been a huge lag time between matches, and both city champions will have to play on the road for bi-district, despite being first seeds, making for some tense moments these days.
The North boys won District 31-6A with the Jags coming second and now those sides prepare for the annual battle with the Lower Valley league, the Coogs against Harlingen South and the Jags versus Los Fresnos.
North lost two of its first four games before embarking on a seven-game winning streak that vaulted Coach Elias Moran’s club to the top. The Coogs claimed four out of five league matches decided by penalty kicks and allowed just 16 goals in 14 outings.
Their opponent, South, is in the playoffs for the first time since 1995 and made it despite losing to Los Fresnos and Rivera twice in district, splitting with Hanna. The Hawks have an offensive club that scored at least three goals seven times in 32-6A. Despite being league kings and No. 1 seed, the Coogs will travel to Harlingen’s Boggus Stadium Friday to play South at 8:30 p.m.
Meanwhile the Jags followed the same trajectory as North, coming from a 2-3 start to take seven of nine matches; they split with champion North and closed out the season with wins in five of six tries. Their foe for bi-district lost three of its last five games after having led the league during the first leg of the schedule. Los Fresnos has a consistent lineup that is strong on defense, and the Falcons will have their hands full with the energetic, quick-touch Jags. That game will be Friday at 7 p.m. at Richard R. Flores Stadium.
The North girls have the toughest bi-district assignment, against the Lady Falcons of Los Fresnos, league champs from 32-6A and ranked No. 2 in the Valley. They average five goals per game and allow less than one. Los Fresnos scored a 3-0 win against Econ early in the season and have a big, skilled, and experienced unit, one that ended the district season with a 9-0 victory last week. This team is not unlike McAllen High, the Valley’s best, and comes to town Friday to battle at North, 6 p.m. start.
Econ’s back-to-back champs will take on a Rivera team that barely made the grade in 32-6A, and the Lady Jags will be a heavy favorite to advance. The Lady Raiders finished 8-6 with a negative goal differential while Econ went unbeaten with 45 goals and just nine surrendered. But once again, the league champ will have to play on the road against a four seed, at Sams Stadium in Brownsville, Friday.
As for the Vela girls, they get another shot at South, which defeated them soundly, 3-0 early on and Coach Tonya Garcia noted that the season finale – versus Econ – was a nice warm-up for South because the Lady Hawks and Lady Jags play similar styles. The Lady SaberCats won five of their first six matches in district and were in contention for second before untimely consecutive defeats against P-SJ-A Memorial and P-SJ-A Southwest. They scored 36 goals in district, allowing 21.
The schedule for the playoffs was to begin Thursday, because some districts had not finished league play last week. That meant that Vela would go a full two weeks between its last 31-6A game and the bi-district match at South, Friday.