Rather than dwell on the result obtained Monday, one would do better to take the longer view, get the wider perspective. Because while the Lady Bobcats ended up on the sad side of a 4-0 count against Vela, the body of work they have put together so far in 2019 is beyond reproach.
Having already clinched a playoff spot from 31-6A, Coach Cerjio Elizarraraz’ side went up against the Lady SaberCats at Richard R. Flores Stadium, hoping to climb into a tie with them in the waning days of the regular season.
They did not achieve that, although they did dominate for the first 30 minutes in the quest to repeat a stunning upset pulled off in penalties against Vela during round one. Bang-bang goals at the end of the half sent the dangerous Lady Sabes onward, but for EHS, again, good things now and later.
“I think fatigue played a part today, and we did not put two good halves together,” said Elizarraraz, whose side takes on Donna North Tuesday with a shot at third place. “We had our chances in the first half, sometimes it becomes a mental thing; when we didn’t put one in, and got behind, well, it’s always harder. We haven’t been behind much this season, really.”
And there it is. Though the program was strong in the mid-2000s, it went through a lull, and for several seasons was basically an afterthought, seldom in the postseason hunt. Before 2016’s playoff trip, the Lady ‘Cats had been out of the mix for four seasons. But now, their coach can say in truth that in 2019, they’ve generally been on top of the curve.
Led by a strong cast of underclassmen, EHS has been the success story of the year. Everyone expected North, defending champ, to battle Vela and Donna North for the title. Econ, with a string of excellent seasons behind it, has faltered badly lately. Into the gap sped the Lady ‘Cats and they will be there when bi-district begins.
Monday offered a glimpse of what hard work and improvement look like. Senior Deb Rodriguez, a veteran who has been there from day one four years back, spent a productive afternoon bombing free kicks at the Vela defense. Several nearly found the mark as the Lady Sabes scrambled to stay afloat in the first half.
Even when Vela charged ahead, netting two more goals in the second half, the Lady ‘Cats kept scrapping.
Late in the match, freshman Miriela Munoz launched a prodigious blast from 35 yards out, and though it curled wide against a vicious wind, it was one of the plays of the day.
Munoz and sister Milena are the heart of the youngster contingent, and they have provided memorable moments all season long, the former with her speedy offensive runs and the latter with steady defending.
No fewer than seven of the starters will return next season, by the way, with the Munoz Sisters as key components.
“They are the backbone of our resurgence in some ways,” Coach Eli said. “You can tell the girls look to them for energy, and when they’re not there, there’s a difference. One of them was late to practice, with a dentist appointment or something, and when she got back out there you could see a change in the attitude from the rest.”
Having a squad with so many freshmen and sophomores can also be a trying deal at times, of course.
“I have to keep reminding myself that so many of these girls are so young,” Elizarraraz commented. “They’re going to make mistakes. But overall, the young kids have done their part in helping us get where we are today.”
BOBCATS HAVE SECOND-PLACE CHANCE
It’s been an enjoyable all-around run at EHS this time, as the boys have also been very successful to date. Coach Luis Cardenas saw his team claim a 4-0 win against Vela Monday which tied them in the table with Econ, which beat North that day. With one game left, the Bobcats can come second if they can manage a point against Donna North Tuesday. While the unbeaten Chiefs have clinched the title, EHS was the only side to gain a point against them, losing in penalties back in round one.
The Jags have finished their regular season, with North currently warring against Weslaco East for the fourth and final spot from 31-6A.
Against Vela, the Bobcats took a two-goal lead into the half and cruised from there. Sophomore Emmanuel Duron got them on the board with a booming penalty kick, taken after Angel “Diablo” Roque worked inside to earn the foul and spot kick.
Roque, a speedy attacker, has tremendous work rate out there and never seems to tire. He netted the team’s second goal toward the end of the half in classy fashion. Rising to win a ball on the left flank, 30 yards out, he controlled nicely on the way down and was off with a sweet first touch. As he zoomed into the 18-yard box, Roque chipped right over the onrushing Vela keeper, finding the net far post and up for the 2-0 advantage. The goal slightly resembled one to be scored a few days later by Liverpool’s Mane against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, keeper position notwithstanding. Just saying.
EHS has displayed consistent speed and passing ability this season and with Duron lurking in back like a sentinel, the team has only let in 11 goals in 11 district games.