The La Vernia Lady Bear soccer team achieved its first-ever championship at the Jan. 6-7 Pleasanton tournament. It is their first since the start of the girls soccer program three years ago.
Down a few starters in the opening match, the Lady Bears took on 5A El Paso Riverside. The teams tied, 1-1, at the end of regulation time, which sent the game into a penalty shootout. La Vernia goalie Lexie de Leon held her ground, however, and the team won, 3-2.
“I believe it was her volleyball reflexes that helped her stand her ground and propel us to victory,” said Head Coach David Chavez after the tournament.
The Lady Bears’ next match was at 7 p.m., and most teams would have found some place to keep themselves out of the freezing cold and wind. However, the girls decided to scout a team that they might later face, and went to watch Floresville win against Bandera -- also in a penalty shootout. This win put the Jaguars in the semifinals with La Vernia.
“We knew we had to make some changes coming into this game,” Chavez said. “Floresville is a fierce competitor.”
Several absent starters arrived before the semifinal, and La Vernia defeated Floresville, 3-1. Freshman Daniela Ayon scored her first hat trick (3 consecutive goals) in a varsity game. It was also her first time taking the position of forward.
The Lady Bears faced Canyon Lake for the championship. It was a back-and-forth game, until Naiellie Mendoza saw an opportunity inside the box and scored her team’s only goal of the match in the first half.
“I told the girls, ‘Don’t let that get to your head. This is still anybody’s game,’” Chavez said.
There were a couple of close calls, with Canyon Lake hitting the post on one occasion and the crossbar on a free kick from right outside the box. However, the defenders and goalie Sarah Wildenstein held strong, and the Lady Bears won the game, 1-0, and brought home the Battle in the Brush Country trophy.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group of girls,” Chavez said. “They are a relatively young team, but apparently they are not going to let themselves be pushed around.”
Based on information submitted by Head Coach David Chavez.