Now that the big shots have flown the coop, the Lady Coogs are eager to find out what star power really amounts to. But just because the program is without long-time soccer standouts Katy Lipscomb and Paige Gutierrez, and minus All-Valley Newcomer of the Year Sammie Gutierrez, don’t expect this proud group to lay down.
Graduation losses and a transfer (the younger Gutierrez to Austin St. Stephens) have North looking for a number of excellent prospects to step up and be counted, but Coach Danny Valdez also has some experienced veterans he can count on to perform.
“We did lose some star kids, there’s no getting around that,” said Valdez, who led his team to a 1-1 scrimmage tie with Brownsville Pace at Cats Stadium Saturday afternoon. “But we still have a bunch of girls here who have played, and some who have not gotten varsity time yet but have some skills. We think we have a good enough team to make the playoffs again.”
The Lady Coogs have become accustomed to continuing the season after most squads hang up their shin guards, as they’ve won six playoff games in the past three seasons, including one last year against San Benito before expiring versus a super McAllen High team in the area round.
If they are to return to the Dance in 2010, there are several former role players who are being tabbed to become the newest stars. One is senior Destiny Rodriguez, the rugged and relentless wing who has been a starter for four seasons. Another is Andrea “Red” Gonzalez, a former frontliner who has found a home in the left back for the team’s seasoned defensive unit.
Those girls have been there before, and Saturday each played a solid game against Pace, a program that has also been a steady playoff combatant recently. Gonzalez in particular was front and center as the Lady Coogs rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to tie the Viqueens on veteran Gisela Ledema’s penalty-kick score after a Pace handball down deep. ‘Ol’ Red” made three steals and a couple of blocks in the second half as North began to win the ball and attack, something that it did not do with regularity in the first 40 minutes.
Pace had come out ready to work for a 10:30 a.m. start, pushing the ball downfield and getting seven shot attempts to just three for North. The Viqueens tallied after a defensive breakdown with just 7:08 left in the half. The Lady Coogs had missed a pair of chances when Gonzalez sent one perfectly to a racing Rodriguez; the latter made a good attempt but was caught at thigh level by the keeper at 12:50.
Then, freshman Kailee Yanez, a speedy newcomer escaped leftside for a try but was high, wide right. She and fellow 9th-grader Reina Morales figure in the rotation this season, as Valdez integrates a fine crop of youngsters into the mix.
After the break, North started winning in the mids and moving up with alacrity, reversing the shots-on-goal disparity with solid control and advance. Gonzalez started many of the forays with gutty D, while fast-footed Viri Torres, another of the seasoned gals who should make a big splash in ’10, began to use her athletic ability to test the Pace defense.
Gonzalez’ steal led to the touch violation in zone and with 29:40 left in the second half, Ledezma zoomed one through for the tie. The other defenders, senior Edna, powerful Aleyna Cubriel, and improving Aleyna Perez, held the line well against the opponent, allowing just four shots in the half. Soph Michelle Villarreal was flawless in goal after intermission.
Torres barreled in close and almost got one at 17:00, while Rodriguez pilfered a loose ball and sidewinded a miss at 13:15. Gonzalez went off the side of the post at 12:15 as the Lady Coogs controlled but could not scratch for the game-winner.
North withstood a few Pace bombs at the end to start the scrimmage season off with a tie; the girls head to the Laredo Tournament this weekend after a Tuesday home scrimmage against San Benito.
“The Laredo trip will be a good chance for us to play a lot and see who is going to step up for us,” Valdez commented. “We’ve got good numbers this year and some of the newer girls are going to eventually show what they can do.”