North faces Brownsville Rivera on the road March 29 in bi-district after wrapping up the 31-6A crown with a 13-1 record. The Lady Cougars have carved out one of their best seasons ever, following a 6-1-3 non-district skate with a fine league run marred only by a loss to P-SJ-A. Since then they have won six in a row, allowing just eight goals in 14 31-6A matches. In fact, this is one of the best defensive teams in the Valley, having posted 13 shutouts and given up a measly 15 goals in 24 games, scoring 46 with a physical group that hustles and defends, employing the long ball and set pieces to generate offense.
The non-district run was punctuated with five shutouts, including a 1-0 win against Sharyland, and a tie with Harlingen South. This edition for Coach Danny Valdez has compiled a resume that rivals that of the great North teams of a decade ago, which boasted stars such as Paige Gutierrez, Destiny Rodriguez, and Katy Lipscomb and achieved a regional tournament appearance.
Rivera meanwhile, rebounded from a 2-9 non-district start to get rolling in 32-6A, where the Lady Raiders were a solid fourth, losing to Los Fresnos twice, Harlingen, and Weslaco. They had real trouble scoring in the first stretch of the season, getting blanked six times – including by Econ – but since then Rivera has found better offensive form.
Vela has been one of the scoring champs of the season, amassing 84 goals and allowing just 22 in 27 matches. The Lady SaberCats (20-7 overall) head into bi-district against Harlingen with a six-game winning streak (nine of 10) and in each of the last four 31-6A outings posted a clean sheet defensively.
The first-rounder comes off in Edinburg March 29 as the competition gets way stiffer. Harlingen, which tied for second in 32-6A at 11-3, is 22-5-1 overall. The Lady Cardinals – back in the postseason for the first time in six years – scored five goals or better seven times (to eight occasions for Vela) and put 13 on the board in an early season blowout of Eagle Pass Winn. They also posted a 1-0 win in penalty kicks over Vela in a pre-season tournament, and are only one of two teams to hold the Lady Sabes scoreless (McAllen Memorial was the other).
Expect a real track meet between Vela and Harlingen, as the Lady Cards have notched nearly 100 goals in 2018. The Lady Sabes are adept at the attack, using speed, spacing, and passing ability to send waves of athletes at the opposing keeper. Harlingen has a similar style.
Last season Vela came third in 31-6A and dropped out in bi-district after a lopsided loss to Harlingen South, 7-1. This time, the Lady Sabes started 9-4 in non-district before romping to an 11-3 mark in district. Their non-league losses were to Pace, Donna North, Memorial, and Harlingen, all playoff-bound sides. In district they were swept by North and also suffered a setback against P-SJ-A Memorial. Harlingen went down against Pace and Pioneer before 32-6A, and was beaten by Los Fresnos, Rivera, and Harlingen South in district.
The North boys completed a phenomenal comeback from a terrible start to league play, and clinched third in 31-6A. After losing six in a row to begin, the Coogs of Coach Elias Moran have barreled into contention and have now won seven of eight heading into bi-district, where the opponent will be Brownsville Hanna, at Richard R. Flores Stadium, March 31 at noon.
Hanna is always a strong side and this season is no exception; the Eagles have scored 84 goals in compiling a 15-6-3 mark, splitting with Los Fresnos and Rivera in 32-6A to finish second. They lost to Lopez, McAllen and Lincoln, among others, in non-district, and are looking to have a better postseason run after an uncharacteristic first-round ouster at the hands of P-SJ-A Memorial in 2017.
The Coogs weathered an unexpected coaching change early in the season but since the return of Moran have righted the ship. Last season he led the club to the state final 8 after four playoff victories.
As for the Jaguars, they wound up second in 31-6A after clobbering Vela, 6-0 Monday at Richard R. Flores Stadium. They shot through pre-league play in great shape, with only a PKs loss to Sharyland on the down side, and then reeled off 12 wins in 14 tries during 31-6A action.
Now it’s Los Fresnos in bi-district, on the road March 29, after the Falcons split with Hanna in district and lost twice to Rivera, coming in third in a league with three top-flight crews. Los Fresnos was up and down in non-district, beating Edinburg North, McAllen Memorial, and Brownsville Porter but losing to Donna North, Porter, Lincoln, and McAllen twice. The Falcons also suffered a poor loss to San Benito in district but did play Rivera to 1-goal decisions in defeat.
The match is actually a rematch from 2017, when the Jags defeated Los Fresnos, 3-1 and went on to area where they were beaten by eventual state semifinalist Juarez- Lincoln.
Finally, EHS is in as a fourth seed despite a late slide that saw the Bobcats fall from third. Their opponent in the playoffs will be Rivera, a perennial powerhouse that went three-deep last before losing to North.
The Bobcats took their lumps in the first stage of the season, starting 0-8 and then winning four of seven before district. Once in 31-6A they ran off seven wins in 11 tries before a three-game losing streak at the wire.
Opponent Rivera was 7-3-1 in pre-league play, beating Brownsville Vets, eventual 31-6A champ P-SJ-A Southwest, and a strong Hidalgo side. The Raiders were topped by Laredo LBJ, Lopez, Rowe, and Juarez-Lincoln but in district girded up for the title down in the southernmost league. EHS will host Rivera at Richard R. Flores Stadium March 29.