BY TJ GARCIA
McALLEN – Sometimes the schedule gods give us a game early in the season that’s worthy of the regional tournament.
Today, we thank them for that gift.
In what is the biggest game of the young soccer season so far, the Sharyland High Lady Rattlers travel six miles up Shary Road to face the Sharyland Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks Friday night at 7:30 p.m. It’s not just a contest between two the region’s best girls’ teams, but it’s also a key District 31-5A match.
Did we mention it’s a rivalry game and that each team is like mini all-star squad with powder kegs of fire power. Try this on for size: on Tuesday Pioneer beat Rio Grande City 8-0 and Sharyland blasted Laredo Cigarroa 7-0. Also, both teams also went four rounds deep in last year’s playoffs making it to the regional tournament before being ousted.
Sharyland enters the game at 4-0 in district and 7-2 overall. Pioneer comes in at 5-3, 4-0. Most of the girls know each other well. Many play club soccer together in the summer. Adding to the familiarity of the sister schools is that Pioneer’s coach JJ Lopez was Sharyland’s coach before taking the helm at Pioneer, which is a third-year program.
Coach Lopez said after graduating an experienced group of eight seniors (six starters) like Taylor Marquez, this year he’s got a good mix of underclassmen and veterans.
“That’s one thing I’ve tried to preach to them on a daily basis is that it doesn’t matter who we graduate, somebody else needs to step and perform,” said Lopez.
Lopez said expectations for the team are to get better every day. Lopez said he’s got a skilled team and believes they can compete with anyone, but the lady Diamondbacks have to grow and gel before believing that they can repeat what the did last year.
Each team has scoring power. Sharyland has junior Kaitie Watson and senior Vanessa Guevara (15 goals), both college-level talents that can score a hat trick at a moment’s notice. The Lady Diamondbacks have a slew of scorers led by the speedy left wing Andrea Reyes (5 goals). Reyes said this year’s team is poised and expects to do better than last year, but they are also chomping at the bit to win some matches.
“This year our team has a sense of fire and hunger that once had not been there,” said Reyes a junior. “There is a willingness to work for what we wish to accomplish and an understanding that we must be playing and working as a team.”
It is early in the season, and the reality is that win or lose there is still a lot of soccer left to be played. A win won’t save the season, and a loss won’t crumble it. However, this is a marquee match-up with lots of talent on the field and will be fun as heck to watch.