It was always going to be a season of transition and adjustment for the Lady Jags, everyone knew that. With monumental graduation woes and the loss of an experienced athlete, junior Priscilla Vela – down for the year with a knee injury – Econ knows that it is time to hang tough, handle and learn from adversity, and become a factor in the race like it has been for several stellar seasons.
The growing pains were on display at home Tuesday as the Lady Jags dropped a 3-1 decision to P-SJA Memorial, followed by a defeat against P-SJ-A Friday. At times, Coach Robert Garcia’s youthful side has shown its potential. At others, the lack of seasoning has been deadly, and the latter was part of the reckoning Tuesday when the club dropped a district match outright for the first time since 2016.
“We’re starting three freshman right now and that is the first time in years that we have done it,” said Garcia, whose team won the league last year with a perfect 14-0 mark.
In the 31-6A opener on Jan. 26, the Lady Jags had escaped with a penalty kicks victory over a much improved EHS outfit, though they committed 24 fouls. Tuesday they improved in terms of smoother, clean play but suffered severe problems clearing from the back, and finishing at the front. Econ had some real periods of activity on the attack, keyed by veteran Laura Ruiz and super-charged newcomer Maria Rocha, one of the three freshmen Garcia mentioned.
But the last clean touch eluded them in the box, and back up field, failure to win 50-50 balls or clear it out of danger spelled doom.
Missing more than half the girls that ruled the league in 2017, Econ nonetheless had a shot to pull out a draw at the wire Tuesday. Down 2-0 in the second half after a dispiriting own-goal surrendered at the 30-minute mark, the Orange gutted up with pride and poise. Freshman Georgana Lara moved up to forward and created some chances while Rocha continued to force down the left side. Compact and powerfully built, she had wheels and a knack for getting into the box, does Rocha. Ruiz had a number of solid tries until a probable handball by Memorial in the box, which was not called.
With 5:15 to go, the Lady Jags pulled one back. Rocha got loose on the left with a push-and-run past her defender and Econ achieved a corner. It did not pan out but later in the sequence, Daisy Garcia drew a foul in front of the net, and winger Allison Flores connected on a booming PK to make it 2-1. Now the home girls resolutely set about going for the leveling score.
Instead of tying the game, they ended up getting beaten in counter by the Memorial front line, but the loss could not dull the sense that with some hard knocks taken and some more to come, this team very well could rebound and launch into the race at some stage.
Transfer America Gonzalez was a solid midfield hand for the squad against Memorial with an aggressive performance while returner Olga “Pollito” Ramirez showed fine speed and the will to force the action in the attacking third. The passing game was there intermittently, the freshmen were impressive (though Audrey Reyes went down with an injury) and in all, Econ was beaten but unbowed after the final whistle.