BY RAUL GARCIA
McALLEN — McAllen High goalkeeper Lexi Gonzalez made the sign of the cross, kissed her finger and hopped to tap the top of the goal as she moved into position at the start of the second half of the Bulldogs’ soccer game against San Antonio Taft.
“I do that every game to make sure everyone has a good game and no injuries and from me getting scored on,” Gonzalez said about her pregame ritual.
The Bulldogs were already sitting on a 3-0 lead and she had yet to be challenged at goal as the Bulldogs went on to win the contest Friday night.
Taft had two unsuccessful shots on goal during the second half as Gonzalez corralled each strike by scooping up the first shot in front of her opponent and on a diving catch on the ground to stop the ball from coming near the goal to help add to the Bulldogs’ win in their second match of the day.
“This is probably the best game we’ve played and we keep getting better and better,” Gonzalez said.
The win marked the Bulldogs’ third straight shutout at the McAllen ISD Soccer Showcase.
The three-day showcase began Thursday featured Corpus Christi King, Donna North, Los Fresnos, McAllen High, McAllen Memorial, San Antonio Warren and San Antonio Taft.
Games continue today at noon at McAllen High and McAllen Memorial.
“Every team plays four games,” McAllen High head coach Pat Arney said. “We are just trying to get some good games against some quality opposition and that’s what it’s all about — playing some good games.”
The Bulldogs shutout Corpus Christi King 10-0 on Thursday and San Antonio Warren 2-0 early Friday before closing out their 3-0 win over Taft.
“The defense is playing good and Lexi (Gonzalez) is playing good and we are just happy to keep the steam rolling,” Arney said.
The Bulldogs will host the Los Fresnos Falcons today at noon in McAllen.
The Bulldogs didn’t waste any time going back to work to add more wins to the soccer program after reaching the 500 mark on Thursday against Corpus Christi King.
Arney paced the sideline holding his hands behind his back, but on the field he wasn’t holding any back as he watched his team work to find a shot on goal against Taft.
The Bulldogs dribbled their way down field passing and using their wing strikers to take the lead over San Antonio Taft.
McAllen High’s Sophia Soto lifted the Bulldogs to a 1-0 lead early in the first three minutes of play.
McAllen went on to control the possession in the first half and in the second half.
“We have been playing better every game these past couple days,” McHi’s Westyn Henderson said. “Our goal is to always get a shutout and our defense is really confident and we are picking up where we left off last season, but we were really confident going into the game that was what were going to do.”
On the second scoring drive started with a Henderson inbound pass from the corner to her teammate. It was kicked back to her and she dribbled past her defender along the sideline and feed the ball to teammate Sophie Soto who was ready to strike in front of the Taft goal to lift the Bulldogs to a 2-0 lead in the first half.
“I thought we played awesome the first thirty minutes and we hung on to do some stuff and some of the girls are hurting,” Arney said. “It’s the third game in two days and it’s the beginning of the season and some of the girls are a little roughed up. Taft is a great team and we will take a 3-0 victory over them any day.”
When Arney first took the head coach job in the 1996-97 season, reaching 500 wins or making a state appearance may have been just a dream.
“I’m really proud of all the girls who have ever played McHI girls soccer. We didn’t get to 500 just because there was nobody else to play. We only get about 25 games per year so we’ve done well.
Win No. 500 came on the first game of the season, but Arney and the team were hoping to reach the mark last season in a win that would have put the Bulldogs to in the region tournament.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but that is the way the ball bounces, but it’s cool. I don’t think there are many coached in Texas that can say we’ve gone 500 games.”
This year marks Arney’s 24th year as head coach.
“Things have been going well since then,” Arney said. “The girls have worked hard and I think back to all the great teams that we’ve had in the past. This is a huge testament to them and all their hard work and commitment and dedication. We’ve had some great teams, great players and great kids.”