McALLEN — She thinks that in spite of Friday’s result, the Lady Coogs will be back and better than ever in 2010. She just won’t be around to see it.
“Killer” Katy Lipscomb wrapped up a stupendous four-year soccer career in the area round of the playoffs, as her team was blanked 2-0 by McAllen High in a battle of Valley powers. Lipscomb, who scored 36 goals as a senior, could not find much room inside against a terrific Lady Bulldog defense, and as a result, the Lady Coogs ended 23-3 for the year.
“I think they will be really good again,” said the speedy and gritty Lipscomb, who leaves the program after becoming an All-Valley MVP; she’s headed for college soccer next season for sure. “After all, nobody thought we would be that good this year because we lost so many players, and we ended up having the best record in school history.”
She’s right, as North lost 14 kids from the Sweet 16 team of 2008 but started this campaign with 20 straight wins. Finishing second in District 31-5A, the Lady Coogs blasted through San Benito in bi-district before running into a Mac team that was too strong in back and kept the pressure on up front all day long.
The Lady Bulldogs (23-6) played with the wind in the first half, and peppered the goal from the start. But North keeper Mercedes Mendoza, a transfer from McHigh who improved greatly this winter, was equal to the job for most of the way. She allowed one scratch, at 28:51, but turned McAllen away 10 times all told to leave her club one down at the break.
Coach Danny Valdez wanted his charges to hit and hit hard versus a relatively small but fast McAllen group, but they came out sluggish as a 100-degree afternoon took its toll. Paige Gutierrez, another of the fine seniors playing their final contest with the team, admitted that the heat played a factor.
“They had more energy than us, I think, but still, when we were down just 1-0 at half, we thought we could get some momentum off that,” said Gutierrez, a steady presence in the middle for four outstanding seasons. “On offense, the area was there for us but the defense they had did a good job of getting to the ball.”
Lipscomb agreed, noting that the Lady Coogs were not their usual selves.
“We didn’t do well enough getting to 50-50 balls, at all. I’m not sure why, but we didn’t play the way we can,” she said. “Our passes were off and we didn’t really get to the passes that were good.”
Another problem in the loss was the North defense, which whiffed on no fewer than six balls in deep, grading out poorly on clears. Had it not been for a couple of leaping saves by Mendoza, the Lady ‘Dogs would have collected more scores in the half.
As it was, one was enough, as tough midfielder Allison Duarte shadowed North freshman star Sammie Gutierrez for 80 minutes, bumping her off ball and keeping her from marshaling the attack like she’s done all season. Gutierrez had a goal and three assists in the 4-2 win against San Benito, but was not a factor Friday.
North had its chances in the second half, as the girls outplayed McAllen. But every time the Lady Coogs got close, the Purple D closed the door. Calixta Moses came on to have a solid day for the team, creating chances with steals and laying licks on the Lady ‘Dogs, as North got physical after a passive first half.
Moses made a steal that led to a Lipscomb pass to Sammie Gutierrez, but the latter’s shot went wide at 31:00. Gisela Ledezma launched a super 1-on-2 run left to create a free kick for Gutierrez, but McAllen keeper Rita Sanchez jumped high to crank the try away at 27:50.
Ledezma later got a header try off a Sammie Gutierrez centering ball, and then Gutierrez stormed left deep and her thru ball led to a shot from Viri Torres. North could not find the equalizer, however, and with 8:14 left, McAllen countered with a run that went past defender Yoli Ordonez and resulted in a 2-0 lead on a header from Meagan Ochoa.
So that’s it for North, which enjoyed a sterling ‘09 and looks forward to bringing back a host of contributing freshmen along with a handful of veterans back for another go.
As for Lipscomb and the other seniors, they know that they managed to win six playoff games in the past three seasons, and as the All-Valley MVP suggested, the future looks bright for the program.