They’d pretty well dominated the whole night, but established just a 1-0 lead, which obviously can vanish in an instant in soccer. So in the closing minutes at home Tuesday, the Lady Bobcats turned to some familiar faces among the newcomers to salt this one away. And the veterans came through.
Anaerin Ibarra and Alyssa Perez came up with huge blocked shots in the zone inside the final 30 seconds, and Perez’ mad dash out of the pack with the pill wasted the clock down to zero as Edinburg held on for the victory over P-SJ-A Memorial in the District 31-5A opener for both teams.
The defensive gems came as the cap to a solid effort for Edinburg (1-0, 8-5), as the Lady ‘Cats held a clear advantage in shots on goal, owned the first half from net to net, and withstood a late charge from the Lady Wolverines (0-1, 7-5) to capture the prize. Perez, who was all over the place all night, as usual, had a number of fine plays in back toward the end, when Memorial rushed for the equalizer.
Ibarra, who tallied the game’s only score back in the first, stepped in with moxie to thwart a pair of Lady Wolve tries, and then with 20 seconds left, Perez defended and ripped free, carrying 50 yards on the run to hand her team the opening triumph.
“That should show you the fine line between winning and losing,” Coach Martin Gonzalez told his group afterward. “You have to be able to answer the call to glory. Perez stepped up and found the inner energy to get it done; she just said, ‘I’m going to take this ball.’”
Gonzalez noted beforehand that the district schedule calls for EHS to match up against league powers Harlingen South and Edinburg North toward the end of the first half.
“That means we have a chance to run the table the first five games, but it all starts tonight,” he suggested. “We have to get off to a good start.”
And they did, as the Lady ‘Cats forced consistently with the wind to begin, with Sam Almanza passing well from the left wing and Lyanna Jimenez rushing down deep from the same side. Ibarra popped to a goal catch at 33:42, and later, she rebounded a shot by Jimenez and side-footed it home at 25:49.
The rugged junior Perez made three steals in the half and a couple of breakneck dashes down the left side. Defensive star Andrea Solis, who booted well and paced the effort on the back line like a champ, almost found the net on a 40-foot free kick at 15:50, but EHS could not break free for the second score. The last best chances came when Perez, who banged the Memorial girls unmercifully all night, sent a sharp centering pass from the left, to no satisfaction. Moments later she missed high on a solid left-handed shot at 7:20.
EHS kept it up as the second began, with three quick attempts, two near-misses coming from Perez, who is looking like an All-Valley superstar these days with her complete package of skills and indomitable will.
Edinburg executed the passing game well until Memorial came alive at the 30-minute mark. Adriana Lopez in goal for EHS came up with a brilliant timing save, as a Memorial girl redirected a thru ball on the fly, catching the keeper momentarily leaning left. But Lopez adjusted at the right moment for a catch.
Gonzalez used all his tools Tuesday, subbing at least 10 times in each half to employ depth and keep his charges fresh. When Jimenez came off, speedy Michal Ann Rodriguez pulled off a number of exciting approaches.
“We wanted to keep our legs ready for the stretch run,” said Gonzalez, battling without midfielder Elizabeth Mena, who sat out with an ankle sprain. “Having people rest a bit gave us the legs we needed to eat some clock in the last 20 minutes.”
This year’s bunch is long on role players who give nice minutes, as tall Barbara Paiz looked like a keeper at times, and Andrea Maldonado played a gutty game on defense. Almanza is stronger than she was last season and has become a valuable contributor.
Memorial pressed for the knot in the final 15 minutes, but with Solis leading the defensive effort, it was not to be. Lopez was steady as she goes in net, and with Ibarra and Perez dropping back to stack the back, the Lady ‘Cats held on.
“When the chips are down, we all have to dig deep,” Gonzalez said to his squad after the win. “When it comes your turn, what are you going to say? What are you going to do? I am grateful for this win, and Perez deserves some credit for what she was able to do.”
The coach lamented the fact that his girls were not entirely in sync, and said that they are going to have to come up with more goals when the opportunities arise.
“Luckily, Perez took it upon herself at the end to finish it for us,” he said. “She answered the call to glory with real fight, and that’s what it will take for us to compete in this district.”