Although it could be suggested that it’s hard to make much real assessment against a Class 3A team like Progreso, the Lady Jags would argue differently, and probably be correct. They welcomed the somewhat hapless Lady Red Ants to Tuesday and Coach Robert Garcia’s squad was not so much worried about the score. The main point was to get everyone some playing time and continue to refine the team’s mechanism as district play nears.

The Lady Jags notched four goals in each half en route to an 8-0 laugher, but accomplished the task of taking a long last look at various subs in various roles. And they were very sharp all the way. As Econ headed into league play Tuesday, it finished the non-district season with a solid 8-5 record.

“We don’t play Friday because La Feria has to cancel,” said Garcia, the patient, well-liked leader who has his unit in position to challenge for a playoff spot in 2010. “So we will have some time off, to rest. Tonight we want to play everyone and work on our game a little.”

The game begins and often ends with one of the Valley’s most exciting goal scorers, Dulce Torres. The long-time ballhawk scored seven goals in the BISD Tourney, where the Lady Jags were 4-3. And she produced three more against Progreso, with the sort of headlong runs to the zone that she has become known for as a four-year starter. She has an incredible knack for sensing the opportunity and seizing it with surprising quickness, and almost always converts when she gets close.

With Torres, who has scored nearly 40 lifetime goals now, the Lady Jags have a premiere offensive threat. And the supporting cast is looking very salty.

In offensive midfielder Idalia Ortiz, Garcia has a tremendous athlete who’s got great touch, light feet, and a durable and physical body. Though she had an injury-prone junior year, Ortiz has the right mentality for a senior.

“A lot of these girls, they know this is it for them, and they are working hard and with the right attitude,” Garcia noted. “Idalia can do a lot of things for us, and she seems to be ready to have a great season.”

Moving back to defense, Econ has a tough customer in junior Nicole Wilke, who is strong and active in defense. Joining her on the stop crew is live-legged veteran Tosha Goyta, who has been around and knows how to play. She has one of the strongest kicks on the team and come up to attack at times due to her excellent speed. Rough-housing Roxy Constantino, one of a line of Constantinos who have starred for the school, adds strength to the defense, and Garcia says that his backline has been a very steady group so far.

There are a number of other kids vying for time in the rotation, including forward Dulce Loera, who found the net twice Tuesday, and quick option Nidia Campos. Denise Reyna, a big girl who can run, was impressive against the Lady Red Ants, and is one of many girls Garcia is counting on to make a difference this season.

Returning second-team All-District goalkeeper Maria Hernandez is a gutsy keeper who keeps the team loose with her fabulous personality; she stopped a penalty kick try Tuesday with a smooth dive to the left.

Last season the Lady Jags started fast, hit the wall in district with a 2-6 start, but finished with a bang at 4-2, including wins against city foes North and EHS. The former win came on the road and eventually kept the powerful Lady Cougars from winning the District 31-5A title.

Garcia hopes that the strong late-season run was just a precursor of things to come.

“That opened some eyes about what we are capable of,” he said. “It came over there, at North, and was one of the biggest wins the program has ever had. This year we have had a positive attitude from the start, while last season we were getting down on each other midseason but then turned it around later.”

If all goes as planned, the amazing Torres and her mates will be a tough out in league play, which commenced Tuesday with a match at Pharr North. Depending on the injury situation and the development of the new kids, this could be a banner year for the Orange.

JAGS ROUNDING INTO SHAPE STEADILY

After a sputtering start to the season, the Jag boys are getting it cranked up. They advanced to the finals of the Laredo Tournament Jan. 16 before losing to Laredo LBJ, and Coach Sam Gonzalez said that his team is coming around.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors back from last year and we think we will have a chance to win district again,” said the Econ boss, whose team faced La Joya and Los Fresnos at home last week. “We did lose some key players, sometimes it’s hard to keep everyone together, but we’ll be fine.”

One of the missing is graduated All-Valley forward Juan Pantoja, a long-time star who led the program to four outstanding championship seasons. But senior Abel Farias, a fast attacker who has battled injury problems throughout his career, is looking good so far.

Gonzalez can also rely on veteran defender Ivan Camarillo, one of the best in the Valley, plus seasoned Jags David Medrano, Freddy Serrato, and Carlos Vazquez.

Keep an eye on freshman Angel Duran, who comes up from Harwell Jr. High and has earned a starting job already. The coach said that Duran, a lefty, is going to be a machine before he’s done at the school.

The Jags are well aware that EHS is off to a super beginning in 2010, and Gonzalez is ready for the challenge.

“We like the competition, it will make us work harder,” he said.