December 23, 2021

By Greg Selber

Click here for Vela select photos Click here for EHS select photos

The preseason has begun for the soccer programs in town, with the girls’ groups scrimmaging regularly now, District 31-6A action to begin with the new year.

It should be a tight race for the crown as all the sides seem to have reason for optimism heading in, including defending champ Vela prominently. Though Coach Americo Cortez’ Lady SaberCats will take the field without two of the best players in program history – Taylor Campbell and Ky Richards – he has plenty of talent on hand with which to defend the title. The most potent of that crew includes Nayla Pena, Crystal Palma, and midfield maestro Nat Cortez. In the early going, Vela worked against Donna North, Los Fresnos, Harlingen, and McAllen, meaning that the girls got a chance to prepare by facing a real murderer’s row of foes.

Last season the Lady Sabes went three-deep in the playoffs in a tremendous showing and are looking for more this time around. Replacing all-time scoring leader Campbell, who had a promising freshman season at Trinity in the fall, and the hard-edged Richards, is not really possible. But the rest of the gang is ready to show what it can do, and chances are, that will be a lot.

North begins the season with a new coach but a familiar face, as Marianna Watson returns to her alma mater after several campaigns as an assistant at Vela. A formidable player in her time with the Lady Cougars, Watson welcomes back a number of good kids who helped the side into the postseason in 2020-21. The Hernandez girls, Deyanara and Yajaira, are back to do their business, along with tough Arianna Gonzalez, speedy Trinity Ochoa, and goalkeeper Belen Santana, among others.

Another city group that has much of its crew back is EHS, which boasts the Munoz Sisters, Titi and Melo, as the backbone, along with defending ace Angie Molina. The Lady Bobcats, who played to a 1-1 draw with Laredo LBJ over the weekend, have several youngsters in the mix, with Coach Cerjio Elizarraraz noting that freshman Amily Rodriguez should in time be “the real deal.” Senior Abby Martinez is a four-year performer for the program, while sophomore forward Danna Cruz – who scored against LBJ – is a comer. The Lady ‘Cats made the playoffs last year and appear to have what it takes to make another good run in 2022.

Looking to make a run of its own is Econ, and Coach Robert Garcia returns most of the cast that looked salty at times last season before falling short. The Lady Jags will be experienced, with nine starters back, winger Diana Soto, defender Reyna Vasquez, and veteran Yami Medellin leading the charge.

The action picks up in earnest after the first, with district play starting Jan. 18. Before then, home games in town include Vela versus P-SJ-A Memorial and Rowe-EHS Jan. 3 and North-McAllen Memorial Jan. 4. On the first night of 31-6A play, North and Econ go at it, at Flores Stadium, while Juarez-Lincoln comes to EHS.

In the final season before realignment, count the city sides as a smart bet to get three and maybe four teams into the playoff hunt; Lincoln should be tough as it usually is, while Mission, La Joya and the Pharr schools are seeking to rebound after below par performances a year ago.

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