By Rick Atkinson, For the Anna-Melissa Tribune

PRINCETON – In their first action of the season, the Anna Coyotes posted a 1-3 mark last week versus a tough field in the annual Princeton Invitational soccer tournament at Jackie Hendricks Stadium.

The weather for this year’s event was superb - a balmy 55 to 60 degrees throughout for a tourney that often features North Pole-like temperatures.

Coyote goalkeepers David Joaquin and Philip Henson shared time during the tournament, with Joaquin starting each match and Henson coming on for the second halves.

Anna opened play on Jan. 2 with a 4-0 loss to eventual tournament champion Wichita Falls Rider. The Class 5A Raiders were handed an own-goal off a corner kick for a 1-0 halftime lead and went on to eventually control the second period.

“I thought for the most part, we defended well,” Coyotes Head Coach Matt Ellis said. “In the first half, the own-goal was just a fluke thing. … We knew they were going to be good. We knew we were going to have to sit back and defend a little bit and try to counter.

“We were decently organized, didn’t give them a ton of chances but in the second have we kind of wore down. We lost marks and some responsibilities and left kids open.”

For this match - and throughout the tournament - Anna was without senior midfielder Jesus Garrido, who was away with family during the school break.

“He helps link our defense to our attack,” Ellis said, “transitioning from attacking to defending and from defending to attacking. He’s a big part of that. Plus, when he’s here it lets me free up Juan Morales to play different spots on the field. It hurts, but we have to be able to play without him.”

In action on Jan. 3, the Coyotes shutout 4A Farmersville 6-0, then were topped by 5A Royse City 3-0.

Versus the Farmers in the morning, Anna pumped in four first-period goals, the first coming in the 11th minute on a shot by Diego Banda off a Hayden McBee assist. Ten minutes later, Morales followed with Goal No. 2, assisted by Jesse Contreras. Then, eight minutes before the break, Yahir Inzunza erupted for a pair of Coyote goals 20 seconds apart for a 4-0 Anna lead. McBee assisted on both Inzunza scores.

Near the midpoint of the second period, Banda picked up his second goal of the match off a feed from Morales. McBee closed out the scoring with a goal at the 32:24 mark, assisted by Alex Granados.

Later than afternoon, Royse City struck for two first-period goals and added one more, 10 minutes into the second frame.

On Jan. 4 versus 5A Princeton, the Coyotes lost a 2-1 decision after trailing, 2-0, at halftime. Meny Huete supplied Anna’s lone goal on a penalty kick with 18:28 left to play. The Coyotes had a final shot to tie it in the match’s waning seconds when McBee booted a free kick from right side as all the Coyotes packed in near Princeton’s goal – but no connection was made.

“Really, we didn’t show up in the first half,” Ellis said. “The second half was much better. We changed our shape. We created more chances, defended a little bit better. I’m pleased with the second half.”

“During the tournament we’ve changed shapes several times just trying to figure out what fits our group and personnel the best. … I think we have capable attacking players. We’ve just got to find them in the right situations. … We’re learning to gel. We haven’t quite got there yet.”