The fourth-annual Highway 5 Soccer Showcase was shortened by one day due to Saturday’s frigid cold front, but plenty of fine high school soccer was on display Thursday and Friday at the two host schools’ venues – Anna’s Coyote Stadium and Melissa’s Cardinal Stadium. A lively array of 25 varsity teams - 13 boys’ and 12 girls’ – competed in 32 total matches over the two days.
Melissa and Anna teams - girls and boys - did quite well, posting a combined record of 7-1-2. There was no advancement toward a finals round this year, even before the weather intervened. Rather, participating schools were simply scheduled to get in three to four matches each. With the truncated schedule, most everyone managed to complete at least two games.
The teams, all from Texas, came from as far away as Pampa to the west and Mineola to the southeast.
Below are recaps of our local squads’ matches. District play starts Feb. 11.
ANNA LADY COYOTES
Quinlan Ford 2, Lady Coyotes 1
Anna dropped a close decision to the Class 4A Lady Panthers Thursday morning after falling behind, 2-0. Quinlan Ford led, 1-0, at halftime and added a second goal eight minutes into the second frame on a penalty kick after a hand-ball call on Anna. Forward Kaitlynn Perry, with an assist from Abi Cisneros, got the Lady Coyotes on the board with 4:55 left in the match. Her close-range shot from the right found the back-left corner of the net. Perry dribbled in and around a defender for 20 yards before slipping the shot past the goalie.
“We’re gaining experience,” Anna head coach Marlon Madrigal said. “We gave up a penalty kick on having a hand out because we haven’t played very much back there. … A lot of soccer sometimes is luck. We hit posts, we had a lot of chances, we created a lot of chances. I was happy with the effort. It was a game that just was our bad luck. That’s how I saw it.”
Goalkeeper Payton Wickliffe went the distance for Anna (4-4), posting two saves.
Lady Coyotes 6, Sunnyvale 0
Thursday evening, Anna blanked the Class 4A Lady Raiders on two goals each by Perry and Kaitlyn Long and single scores from Lauren Schlicht and Cisneros. The Lady Coyotes led, 3-0, at halftime and Wickliffe went the whole way again for Anna (5-4), collecting two saves.
Lady Coyotes 1, Sherman 0
Anna notched another shut-out win Friday night, this time over Class 5A Sherman. Schlicht provided the eventual game-winning goal early in the second half. Wickliffe tallied five saves in another full-match performance for the Lady Coyotes, who finished the tournament with a season record of 6-4.
MELISSA LADY CARDINALS
Lady Cards 0, Argyle 0
In an early season showdown Thursday evening, Class 4A heavyweights Melissa and Argyle scrapped and fought to a scoreless tie. Anna Blankenship was in-net for the Lady Cards throughout, logging saves on all three Argyle shots-on-goal. Melissa, meanwhile, fired 16 shots-on-goal at Lady Eagles goalkeeper Cortlynn Boone.
Argyle (3-1-1) has never beaten the Lady Cards and now resides in Region 1 while Melissa (4-0-1) has moved east into Region II. This means the next time these former district mates could meet again this season would be in the state tournament.
“What stands out is the opportunity for my young kids to grow,” Lady Cards head coach Manuel Avila said of the match. “We made a couple of substitutions and finished the game with six freshmen on the field. … I was excited for some of those kids to really get some quality competition and have the opportunity to grow and learn. I was pleased with the performance. Obviously, we see some things that we need to work on and want to continue to improve on. But honestly, I felt like we let one slip through our fingers. We had chances. We should have won. Defensively, we were very, very strong. I haven’t looked at the statistics but we feel like we didn’t offer very many quality opportunities for them. … The sky’s the limit for this group if they keep playing like that.
“Five games, no goals [allowed] – I’ve got no complaints. The goals will come on our side. We’re very good offensively. We were missing a couple of our attackers tonight through injury and we had one in an NHS ceremony … Going into an Argyle match, you expect them to be talented pretty much across the field. They were.”
Said Argyle head coach Marc Koke, “I’m just really proud of our girls. We’ve been in Melissa’s district forever and have never beaten them. There’s been like one tie and that’s when we had a really pretty stacked team. That’s the best we’ve ever played against them. They’re a quality program, one of the top 4A programs in the state. … We definitely dodged some bullets. They had a lot of good scoring opportunities. We were lucky to get of here with a tie.”
As for his goalie’s 16 saves, Koke said, “That was probably the best game of her career. She bailed us out a bunch. I can’t say enough about how well she played in-goal.”
Lady Cards 4, Denison 0
Friday night, Melissa cruised past the Class 5A Yellow Jackets with a crushing 13-0 advantage in shots-on-goal. Kicking home first-half scores for the Lady Cards were Robertson and Hurst. Reagan Eichel added two more goals after the break to complete the shutout. Blankenship worked another complete match in-net for Melissa (5-0-1).
Coyotes 3, Mineola 2
In their tourney-opener Thursday morning, the Coyotes rallied for three goals in the match’s final seven minutes to down Class 4A Mineola, 3-2. The game-winner came on Carlos Garrido’s point-blank effort with five seconds left to play. His brother, Jesus Garrido, provided the assist.
“This is a team I don’t worry about quitting,” Anna head coach Matt Ellis said. “They don’t stop playing. They’ll keep working hard and go until the end of games. I’m incredibly proud of their effort. That’s a pretty good team in Mineola. It’s a really good result. … It can’t be any more dramatic than that – scoring three goals in the last seven minutes.”
Anna (3-1-2) outshot the Yellowjackets, 12-8, and held an 8-6 edge in shots-on-goal. Goalkeeper David Joaquin worked the first half for Anna and Phillip Henson come on in the second. Joaquin tallied two saves and Henson finished with three.
Mineola scored the match’s first goal on a penalty kick 22 minutes into the second half. Three minutes later, the Yellowjackets found net again on a long shot that sailed high over Henson’s outstretched hand. Now down, 2-0, and facing a strong north wind, Anna quickly answered with a Juan Morales goal off a Diego Banda assist. Seventy-five seconds later Banda was back, kicking in the equalizer from close range after on a rebound off the goalie.
Just as it appeared the match would end in a tie, the Garridos provided the big finish.
“The Garrido brothers have combined several times for goals this year,” Ellis said, adding that the freshman Banda caused plenty of problems for Mineola up top. “That trio, when I move them around and get them in the same spots together, it’s a lot of issues [for opponents.]”
“They’re a good opponent,” Carlos Garrido said of the Yellowjackets. “We slept in the first half and let them score two goals in the second half. But we woke up and fought and we took the win. Last minute – we did it. I just looked up, shot it and the ball was in. … It meant a lot to us. We normally don’t start as strong the first couple of games [of the season]. But this year, we came out strong. We’re ready for everything.”
Forward Gavin Reno was back in Anna’s lineup after three weeks out with a leg injury. “He was a little amped up,” Ellis grinned. (Reno earned a yellow-card in the second half.) “He was ready to get to get back out there and maybe went in a little harder on challenges than he needed to. But he looks great. We just need to get him back in shape. I wanted to give him a little run of about 20 minutes today.”
Coyotes 3, Denison 1
Thursday night, Anna downed Class 5A Denison with two goals from Isaac Nino and one from Banda. Nino struck first, finding the net before four minutes had elapsed in the match, with a Banda assist. The Yellow Jackets’ lone goal came on a penalty kick six minutes into the contest, tying things at 1-1. Sixty seconds into the second half, Nino’s second goal - off a Jesus Garrido assist - gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead. Bando booted home Anna’s third goal with 22 minutes left in the match, with a Morales assist.
Overall shot totals were equal at 8-8 with Anna (4-1-2) getting five shots-on-goal to the Jackets’ four. Joaquin was again the Coyotes’ first-half goalkeeper and Henson worked the second, posting three saves.
Coyotes 3, Crandall 1
Anna knocked off Class 4A Crandall on Friday evening, pounded the Pirates in shots-on-goal, 10-4. With Reno providing the assist, Carlos Garrido scored the first of his two goals 12 minutes into the match for a 1-0 Coyotes lead. Crandall tied it just before halftime but early in the second period, Garrido teamed with Isaac Nino for his second score and Anna edged ahead, 2-1. Four minutes later, Reno - off a Banda assist - knocked home an insurance goal.
Coyote goalkeepers Joaquin and Henson split time again, with Joaquin in-net for the first half. Anna wrapped the tournament with its season record at 5-1-2.
Cards 1, Pampa 1
Melissa battled the Class 4A Harvesters of West Texas to a draw in its opener Thursday night, with the Cards’ Chris Perez scoring the tying goal midway through the second half. Senior goalkeeper Winston Chawira worked the entire match for Melissa (0-3-1), collecting two saves. The Cards posted seven shots-on-goal to Pampa’s four.
Cards 1, Mineola 1
Friday evening, Melissa fought to another tie, this time with the Class 4A Mineola Yellowjackets. The Cards erupted for 20 shots – 12 on-goal – as Mineola managed just one early on, but it found net. Melissa’s Eric Ramirez posted the equalizer five minutes into the second half, with a Perez assist. Chawira again went the whole way in-net for the Cards (0-3-2).