Wednesday, October 17, 2018
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20180306 Soccer Girls SHS vs SPHS LG-13Anytime the top two teams in District 31-5A step onto the soccer field, there’s sure to be fireworks. The Sharyland Lady Rattlers have long been a powerhouse on the pitch in the RGV, while the Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks have quickly turned into a serious contender since the start of the program just four years ago.

The crosstown rivals clashed in a rematch Tuesday night with the top spot in District 31-5A up for grabs and Sharyland (12-1, 36 points) put a stranglehold on its district lead, emerging victorious 2-1 on penalty kicks over Pioneer (11-2, 33 points).

For the second time this season, the closely matched teams required a penalty kick shootout to decide a winner. This time around, it was the Lady Rattlers who delivered to even the season series at one win apiece.

The shootout wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the late-game heroics of Sharyland senior forward Kaitie Watson.

“It was really emotional because we knew what we had to do,” Watson said. “We had to come out with the win to be district champions, so we came with the right mindset and we were really excited after losing last time. It was real emotional for us since it’s a big rivalry.”

After a scoreless first half largely dominated by Pioneer’s ability to keep possession, the Lady Diamondbacks got on the board just 29 seconds into the second half when senior Andrea Reyes connected with a perfectly positioned Lauren Guerra, who sent the ball into the Sharyland goal.

Watson was marked heavily by Pioneer defenders from start to finish, but her best chance came down 1-0 with just over four minutes left on the clock. A handball set up a Sharyland free kick 29 yards out from the goal. That’s when Watson stepped up to the ball, cool, calm and collected, and delivered a free kick that sailed over the Pioneer wall and past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Yulissa Ocuna to tie the game at 1-1 with minutes left in regulation.

“I knew it was probably going to be the last solid chance we had of the game and I felt pretty confident because we had just practiced that free kick at practice and I was hitting them on point,” said Watson. “I went over there confident and watching it actually go into the back of the net, I can’t even describe it, it was just an amazing feeling to know that I could do that for my team.”

Sharyland Head Coach Mario Ribera said he couldn’t sleep the night before the rematch with Pioneer due to excitement, but was happy his team was able to come from behind to secure the win and take a four point lead in the district race.

“I have to give credit to Coach Lopez,” Ribera said. “The first half they dominated, we didn’t have opportunities the first half. Kaitie was well-marked, they marked her all over the field with one or two players. I feel the second half, we had a little bit more of an opportunity, but they still controlled most of the game. Very fortunate for us that we had the free kick, and having Kaitie on our team is something special because she makes things happen.”

The first nine kicks of the shootout were successful, but after Sharyland goalkeeper Ana De La Torre was guessing right, getting her hands on shots and nearly blocking them, Pioneer’s final penalty kick sailed well over the goal, allowing the Lady Rattlers to win the shootout 5-4.
De La Torre, a junior in her first year on varsity, played big all game long for Sharyland, denying Pioneer with diving stops in goal.

“When I make those saves it’s pure adrenaline, just gut instincts,” she said. “It’s amazing, I feel like all my hard work has paid off and I just proved myself right now with this game.”

Pioneer’s defense was on point much of the game as it was in their first meeting with Sharyland. Defenders Olivia Vasquez and Jocelyn Boyle played key roles in shutting down the scoring threat of the Lady Rattlers, holding Sharyland scoreless in regulation for nearly 156 minutes of regulation play in both games.

“This is probably the third or fourth game that we’ve been down and we’ve come back,” Ribero said. “It’s something I have to give credit to these girls, they never give up. We knew something was going to happen. We prepare for these types of games and I think we’re ready for the playoffs.”

The win gives the Lady Rattlers a three-point lead over the Lady Diamondbacks in the race for a district championship with just three games remaining in the season.

Left on the slate for Sharyland is Laredo Nixon, Mission Veterans Memorial and Rio Grande City, who are all but eliminated from playoff contention.

Pioneer closes the regular season with matchups against Laredo Martin and Roma.

The Sharyland boys’ soccer team also brought home a win Tuesday night in a 1-0 win over Pioneer at Richard Thompson Stadium. The win is Sharyland’s second over Pioneer this season as the Rattlers are firmly in second place (10-3, 31 points) behind district leader Valley View.

The loss doesn’t affect Pioneer in the standings as the Diamondbacks remain third in 31-5A (8-6, 26 points).