BROWNSVILLE – It was a unique afternoon offering the opportunity for one to be waterlogged, windblown, and sunburned, without moving an inch. And for five of the city’s soccer sides, the chance at this pre-preseason tournament offered growth, personnel performance and assessment, and just plain fun.
Econ and Vela took both boys’ and girls’ squads down to the Brownsville Sports Complex, and the EHS girls were there, too. The Jaguars made it to the title game, losing on penalty kicks to perennial power and local favorite Porter, showing that they have a stacked and talented team that will definitely be one of the leaders in the 31-6A race this season. The EHS girls have a ton of new faces and scrapped their way into the semifinals, where in a rain flurry they were bested by Vela in PKs.
Each of the teams got the requisite work, trying combinations, seeing who’s worked out hardest in the offseason, and carving out to-do lists in terms of rotation, set piece style, and areas of improvement.
There will be another tournament, in McAllen Saturday, as the local futbol scene heads for the starting line in late December. And no school is more interested in the early returns than Vela, which debuted new coaches Saturday. Fred Garza, a 1989 EHS grad who mans the boys’ helm, is excited about his first varsity assignment after having made his bones with excellent work at the junior high level.
His girls’ counterpart, the estimable Americo Cortez, comes over from his former post with the boys, and says that it’s different coaching girls, but in a way, the same.
“I am doing the same things I have always done, insisting on discipline, attitude, and togetherness,” said Cortez, long-time mentor at Econ before coming to Vela six years ago. “Right now, the girls are working hard, showing a lot of potential, and having fun, which is really important. This tournament has been a chance for us to see who can do what, we have been watching how they respond to situations and seeing what we have to work on moving forward.”
The Lady SaberCats have begun the post-Chery Era, after 4-year standout Chery Chavez graduated and went on to college soccer. This year’s edition will have more girls getting on the ball, after the amazing Chavez by necessity and prowess was the main cog in the offense in past seasons.
Cortez was pleased to see returning senior Ayssa Arevalo notch a hat trick in one of the preliminary matches, and he has a series of newcomers who are itching to play and excel. Foremost among them are highly touted freshman Taylor Campbell, who did not attend the Brownsville gig, and Odessa Leal, a very skilled classmate of Campbell’s who put in the winning goal against Mission in the closing seconds.
The coach’s mantra is, “Every day is a tryout,” as he has a roster of 20-plus kids vying for starting roles.
“There are no guarantees for anyone, we are looking at everyone and starting from scratch,” he explained. “So many good girls who have ability, which is a good problem to have, actually.”
Based on the talent level and performance so far, the Lady Sabes – who made the playoffs last year with a solid effort – have to be considered a good bet to repeat that success. The Lady Jags, among the league’s elite the last three runs, have plugged in speedsters Laura Ruiz and Priscilla Vela to make up for the loss of two college players, Krysta Armstrong and Ayssa Ozuna, and gave Vela all it could handle Saturday before falling 1-0.
As for the Econ boys, well, it looks very promising, especially with Jonathan Segundo back for his senior season. Hiram Iracheta, Mario Ferrer, and several other seasoned, skilled guys make the Jags fast, precise, and confident heading into the season.
Saturday was all four seasons in one, rain and sun, wind, and most importantly, game experience and endurance testing for the units in attendance.