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A fight to the finish for Patriots boys

20140228-Mission-v-VMHS-Boys-Soccer- dy-049Talk about a tight race! The Veterans Memorial Patriots boys’ soccer team is one of three teams within a single point of the District 61-4A championship with only two games to go. After their clutch 2-1 win over the Rio Grande City Rattlers Tuesday evening, the Patriots have 16 points in the standings while the Rattlers and the Roma Gladiators are atop the race with 17 points each.

Having fallen to the Rattlers by a score of 3-0 in the first round of district play and having suffered only their second loss of the season at the hands of the Mission Eagles last Friday evening, Coach William Proctor’s boys bounced back in a big way against the Rattlers on their home field Tuesday. With the win the Patriots not only improved their district record to 6-2 but they kept their district championship hopes alive with only Roma and La Grulla still on their schedule.

After a scoreless first half Tuesday evening, Veterans Memorial’s Jonathan Manzo scored with a header off a corner kick at the 34:50 mark of the second half. Then with the score tied at 1-1, Omar Luna scored the eventual game-winning goal for the Patriots with 15:52 left in the game.


Lady Eagles’ Iglesias coaching her final season

20140225 Softball Mission Team lg-02For Mission High Lady Eagles softball coach Iris Iglesias, coaching is more than a profession, it’s a way of life. However, after 35 years of coaching – all at Mission High School – Iglesias is planning to retire at the end of this school year.

Not only has Iglesias been the Lady Eagles’ head softball coach since 1995, she actually introduced the sport to Mission High School that very year.

A 2012 inductee into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame, Iglesias has a career softball record of 328-168, with five district championships, nine bi-district championships and three area championships. In 1996, Iglesias led Mission to the regional quarterfinals while her 2000 squad advanced to the state’s Sweet 16.

While this may be her last year as coach, Iglesias is by no means throwing in the towel just yet. After winning district and bi-district championships last year, she’s as committed to winning this year as she’s ever been.

“The success we had last year was with a senior-laden group,” explained Iglesias. “Eight seniors, six of which were starters, are all gone but we do have something to build on this year. We have our pitcher Gabby (Gabriela Castillo) and catcher Sara (Stubbs) back, so they will be our main battery around whom we will build this year’s team.”


Six local wrestlers earn All-State honors

20140215 State-Tournament-Wrestling PB IMG 1463Six minutes. That’s how close La Joya Juarez-Lincoln wrestler Leslie Oliva came to taking the gold at the state tournament Saturday. After taking her first match in the University Interscholastic League’s (UIL’s) Wrestling State Tournament in Garland, Texas with a pin, Oliva (45-3) won her second and third round matches by one-point decisions to qualify for the championship match in the 95 lb. weight class. Oliva gave it all she had against Morgan Zogg (41-3) of Klein in that match, but Zogg eluded her moves while scoring two points of her own to take the championship match, winning the gold medal, 2-0.

In only her second year of competitive wrestling, the Lady Huskies’ sophomore had already exceeded all expectations even before she stepped onto the mat for her first match at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. She did so by earning the district and regional championships in this her first year of competing at those two tournaments.

“I never thought I could make it that far,” said Oliva. “But I worked hard because I really wanted the gold medal. I did wrestle last year, but I didn’t get to compete at the district meet so this is my first full year of wrestling.”


Rattlers to face Longhorns in hoops playoffs

20140211 basketball boys shs vs ljhs lg-10In a season filled with challenges, such as the loss of head coach David Keith due to health issues, the Sharyland Rattlers basketball team has risen to the occasion putting together a 14-2 record and qualifying for the state playoffs.

With Keith recovering from brain surgery at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston earlier this week, the Rene Gonzalez led Rattlers closed out their district schedule with a 66-44 victory over the La Joya Coyotes Tuesday evening and are preparing for their upcoming bi-district playoff game against the Laredo United Longhorns Monday.

While having to deal with such adversity might cause other teams to lose their focus and struggle to maintain a high level of play, Rattlers players such as guard Jesse Pistokache have have found inspiration and a spiritual awakening in the way their coach has dealt with his all-too-serious health concerns.


Lady Rattler divers advance to state

20140211 Diving Girls Sharyland lg-02Don’t tell Sharyland’s Sandra Valdez that freshmen aren’t supposed to be this good. You just might have an argument on your hands.

The freshman Lady Rattler is the 2014 District 30-5A and Region 8-5A girls’ 1 meter diving champion – a level of success few divers ever achieve.

Lady Rattler head diving coach Leslie Ortiz Richardson explains, it could very well be her gymnastics background that has helped Valdez excel in diving, and with so little experience.

“She’s a very natural diver,” said Richardson. “I think that her gymnastics background has a lot to do with that…. Any diver that has a background in gymnastics benefits greatly. She’s very particular about how she dives and how she practices. She strives to get the most out of her practices and it didn’t take long for me to see that she had a lot of potential if I pushed her enough.”


Wrestlers ready to rumble at state

20140207 Wrestling Alyssa-Salinas featureSoft-spoken and weighing in at less than 100 pounds, it’s hard to picture Leslie Oliva as a wrestler, let alone a regional champ.

The sophomore at Lincoln-Juarez High School had never been involved in sports before signing up for wrestling as a freshman, thinking it would be like boxing.

“I thought it was going to be less work, but now I’m in shape,” Oliva said. “It’s good. I’m healthier. I’m giving it all I’ve got.”

Oliva is one of four regional champs in the area, and the 95-pounder is preparing for the state tournament next weekend in Garland. She credits team captain Danae Sanchez for helping motivate her and get her into shape.

Sanchez, herself a regional champ in the 148-pound weight class, ended up wrestling because of a mistake in her schedule her freshmen year. Her original plan had been to play volleyball, soccer and track. But naturally competitive, Sanchez quickly picked up the sport. She also has three older brothers, one of whom was once a wrestler for Palmview.


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