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La Joya locks up wins in district opener

District 30-6A soccer has officially kicked off and La Joya and Mission boys’ and girls’ programs clashed in intense battles at Tom Landry Stadium that came down to the wire.

The Lady Coyotes (16-3-1, 1-0-0) have been rolling through non-district action and the team’s good play continued Tuesday night in their 30-6A opener as they edged out the Mission Lady Eagles 2-1.

20180130 Soccer Boys LJHS vs MHS LG 18After 15 minutes of back and forth between the Lady Eagles and Lady Coyotes, it was La Joya sophomore Kayla Ochoa who broke the game open and found the back of the net with a ball off her right foot midway through the first half.

The second half was scoreless until an action-packed final 10 minutes. Ochoa broke free into the Mission box but was fouled by two Lady Eagles attempting to put a stop to her run. Ochoa knocked the penalty kick in to put the Lady Coyotes up 2-0 with 9:10 left to play.

Facing desperation, the Lady Eagles converted with 4:15 left on the clock, but the last-minute effort was too little too late.

Ochoa, a midfielder who rocks bright green cleats, has been money in her first two years for the Lady Coyotes. The sophomore’s two goals against Mission boosted her number of goals scored to 16 on the year in only 20 games. Ochoa, who described herself as a happy person, was all smiles after the game and credited the team’s success to their unity.

“I’m a very happy person and I like to push the team for more,” Ochoa said after her two goal performance. “I think that it’s unity, we always encourage each other to be in practice every day, get those laps in, to support everybody as a team because teamwork is the key to success. We’re a good team and I really appreciate being a part of it.”

La Joya Lady Coyotes Head Coach Lupe Moreno told his team before the game he wanted to go home with three points or no points and was proud of the effort that brought his team its first district victory.

“It’s always good to start district with a win, it’s a tough district so we needed these three points,” Moreno said. “The girls have worked very hard since the summer and it’s always a pleasure to see what you’ve been working for paying off.”

Moreno has instilled a playoff mindset in his team and are aiming for postseason success. The Lady Coyotes finished fourth place in District 30-6A but were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. Moreno thinks this team, although young with only four seniors, gives the Lady Coyotes a good chance get into the postseason and hopefully go further than the year before.

“Playoffs; that’s our goal,” he said. “Last year we made the playoffs, this year we have a better team and the goal is to go further than just the first round of the playoffs.”

After the girls’, it was the boys’ turn to get in on the district opening fun.

The match between the Coyotes and Eagles was competitive from the start as players on both sides were fighting for every inch they could get. When it was all said and done, there were four yellow cards and a red card handed out.

The scoring started in the second half when La Joya’s Edgar Palomares struck a ball with his right foot from 15 yards out to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead with 24:30 remaining. Mission immediately responded by turning its attack up a notch leading to a goal from speedy junior John Cortez to tie the game at 1-1 which eventually sent the game into a penalty kick shootout situation to decide the winner.

In the shootout, it was La Joya goalie Andre Ramirez who shutdown the Eagles attempts, coming up with two big blocks and forcing one shot to go wide left. La Joya’s Edgar Cortina, Julio Cabello and Adrian Aguirre each knocked in their penalty kicks to give the Coyotes a 3-1 victory in the shootout.

Ramirez said he was in the Eagles’ heads during the shootout. La Joya Head Coach Alexandro Davila said the Coyotes have practiced and prepared for the exact scenario which paid off big time Tuesday night.

“We practiced PKs yesterday, it was about 80 or 90 PKs and he (Ramirez) took them all,” Davila said. “Towards the end he was becoming tired and they were getting after him but tonight he came through. He came through with a couple of stops there that were magnificent and it’s a 1 v 1, it’s a disadvantage because he didn’t have the ball but he came through and I’m very proud.”

Davila said the road win in the district opener gives his team confidence and furthers his belief that the Coyotes are bound for a successful season.

“It’s going to be games like this, scrappy games, hard games, tough games so we feel confident going forward after coming to Mission and taking two points,” he said. “We can do something special. We have an experienced team so we can only get better.”

La Joya is back in action tonight as they host McAllen High with the Lady Coyotes kicking off action at 6 p.m., followed by the Coyotes taking the field at 8 p.m. at La Joya Stadium in La Joya.

Mission will have an opportunity to bounce back on the road in their district match against  McAllen Memorial with the Lady Eagles set to start at 6 p.m. and followed by the Eagles at 8 p.m.

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