Crunch time is coming, with two weeks left in the soccer regular season, making North’s doubleheader sweep at Econ Friday a very important result. The Cougar boys got great goalkeeping from Erick Alaniz and a revenge score from Ed Reyes to knock off the the Jags 1-0 in the opener, while the Lady Cougars allowed the equalizer in the second and had to go to overtime to subdue the pesky Lady Jags, 2-1.
In staying one game and four points ahead of Econ for second place in District 31-5A, North withstood a steady barrage of shots from Carlos “Robinjo,” Vazquez, Abel Farias, and the rest, but Alaniz was equal to the task. And Reyes, who had gotten into a scrap earlier in the night, scored on a header off Cesar Barajas’ corner kick just two minutes into the second.
“It’s about time we broke that streak,” said North coach Joe Gaspar, whose team had not beaten the Jags in four years. “We started slowly but we came on, and we kept them from scoring on corners, free and direct kicks, that’s something they’re good at.”
Econ was fast out of the gate with six shots in the first eight minutes, but every time it got close, Alaniz was there. Playing without star sophomore Alex Gutierrez, who was out of town for a tournament with the Houston Dynamo, the Coogs converted when they got the chance, erasing many unpleasant memories in the process.
“We should have beaten them the first time,” Gaspar, referring to the round-one match that the Jags tied on a late Vazquez marker and won in shootout mode.
“RED” COMES THROUGH LATE
It was the opposite effect for the North girls, who led 1-0 at the break after Mariana Watson fought deep left to a score from the box at 12:53. The Lady Jags (5-5 now and up against the wall with four games left) dominated the second half with sharp passing and aggressive play, tying things up at 29:38 when Dulce “Candy” Loera notched a goal from point-blank left.
With a rugged defense paced by Tosha Goytia and Nicole Wilke, Econ held the Lady Coogs (8-2, 21 points, second in the loop) down while goal-hound Dulce Torres pushed for the winner. But Edna Gonzalez stayed close to Torres throughout the half, dodging a bullet when the senior striker narrowly missed a header try off a corner kick with 48 seconds left.
Lady Jag goalkeeper Maria Hernandez made a number of nice saves and her sky-high lefty boots were a definite plus. In the first overtime, Goytia almost put her team ahead on a 40-yard scorcher. Idalia Ortiz got a solid attempt to start the second OT as Econ kept the pressure up and later, freshman Savannah Castillo put one in but was called for being offside.
Finally “Red” Gonzalez was the hero of the night with a score off a corner at 2:11. It was a dramatic win for North, and Coach Danny Valdez joked about the breathtaking close.
“One of these days you’re going to look and fine me dead over there,” he said afterward, pointing to the Lady Coog bench. As the girls cracked up, he continued.
“Why do we always have to make it so close? We have to get better at finishing. But, we did what it took, and that’s what matters.”