BY TJ GARCIA | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
Santos Villarreal is a national champion – again.
The former Mission Veterans All-State quarterback-turned-linebacker for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor helped lead the Cru to its second NCAA Division III National Championship in three years. UMHB defeated 13-time champ Mount Union (Ohio) 24-16 last Friday, avenging last year’s loss in the title game.
The game was Villarreal’s third-straight championship contest, and the Cru completed a perfect 15-0 season to receive the D-III title trophy. The come-from-behind victory is something the senior will not soon forget.
“To be honest, my team and I were very confident about winning this game,” said the 5-foot-11 linebacker. “The thought of losing to them last year is all we needed. When we went down 10-0, we weren’t worried. We just knew it was time to play.”
Villarreal, who arrived on UMHB’s Belton campus as a quarterback in 2015, transitioned to defense after one year. He’s acknowledged that he had some self-reflection and maturing to do before fully embracing his situation and new position. Once he did, Villarreal became a big contributor to the Cru’s championship culture. He was a reserve linebacker in 2016.
In two full seasons as a UMHB starter, Villarreal made 123 tackles, recorded 13 tackles for losses, picked off six passes and recovered three fumbles. He was the team’s second-leading tackler in 2018. The Cru posted a 29-1 record from 2017-2018. And in the past 10 years, Mary Hardin-Baylor is 126-10.
“I’ve had the best experience of my life playing football here. I wish every Valley kid could experience winning national titles or even just to be in one. I had a chance to play in two and it’s just incredible,” said Villarreal, a Business Management major. “I’ll remember the bond I had with my teammates and the whole week of preparation for the game. It was fun, intense and the game experience was a dream.”
ROWE’S DOUGHERTY GETS SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD
McAllen Rowe product Veronica Dougherty was named to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference All-Sportsmanship team earlier this month. The SCAC has placed a special emphasis on sportsmanship. Each head coach was asked to elect one member from his or her team who displayed good sportsmanship throughout the season.
Dougherty, a midfielder and defender for Centenary College in Shreveport, La., started all 15 games for the soccer team. The 5-foot-6 freshman assisted the game-winning goal in a 3-1 win in the season opener against Belhaven. Dougherty scored a critical game-tying goal on her first shot of her collegiate career in the 83rd minute of Centenary’s eventual 4-3 (2OT) win against Texas Lutheran.
SOUTH’S DEL ANGEL PICKS UP POST-SEASON ACCOLADE
Former Harlingen South All-District volleyball player Cameron Del Angel is making some noise at the junior college level. The Coastal Bend College freshman was named National Junior College Athletic Association Region XIV honorable mention. Del Angel, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter led the Cougars in kills with 176, and kills per set with 1.87 per stanza.
Del Angel, a two-sport star for the Harlingen South Hawks, also recorded 52 digs on the season to go along with 22 total blocks. She posted 192.5 points in 2018. Coastal Bend, located in Beeville (about three hours north of the RGV), is in JUCO Region XIV with JUCOs such as Blinn, Victoria, and Wharton. The Cougars were 13-18 overall this season.
VELA’S HERRERA RUNS WELL FOR INCARNATE WORD
The University of Incarnate Word men’s cross country team pulled an upset late in the season, and Edinburg Vela alum Adam Herrera was there to help the Cardinals. The UIW team finished seventh among 24 schools in the NCAA DI South Central Regional, and they performed better than Baylor, Houston, LSU and TCU and several other big-name universities.
UIW just squeezed into the regional by finishing third in the Southland Conference. However, it had some extraordinary performances to move up on the leaderboard. One of those great times came from Herrera, who placed fifth among the Cardinals and notched a 60th finish among 168 runners in the 10K race. Herrera, a junior, ran as high as 44th early in the race and posted a final time of 33 minutes, 39.3 seconds.
McHI’S BEIKER MAKES ALL-CONFERENCE SQUAD AT OLLU
McAllen High alum Adam Beiker earned a Red River Athletic Conference honorable mention nod for his stellar play for Our Lady of the Lake University. The senior played in 15 games this year, 14 as a starting defender. He had one assist and took six shots. Beiker, 6-feet and 165 pounds, is a biology major and was named a RRAC Scholar Athlete in 2018.