This year’s Valley Morning Star All-STAR MVP award goes to Harlingen South’s Mellory Grannum.
The junior’s innate ability to create plays from the midfield, score from the forward position and challenge players while playing defense demonstrated the level of importance Grannum had for the Lady Hawks.
She helped Harlingen South finish with a record of 10-4 in a tough District 32-6A. The talented junior also helped guide the Lady Hawks to a bi-district victory over PSJA Memorial and an area-round win over Laredo United before the team ultimately fell to McAllen High in a memorable third-round game.
“She was very important to our team because of the things that she could do,” said Harlingen South head coach Omar Pedroza. “If we needed help defensively, we could count on her because she was probably one of the best defenders in the Valley. If we needed help at midfield, she is incredible because of her dribbling skills. And when she played forward, teams would use two defenders on her.”
Grannum was also named District 32-6A’s Utility Player of the Year.
Q: What does it mean to you to be named this year’s All-STAR MVP?
MELLORY: Being chosen MVP is an incredible honor. Our district has several outstanding players so being chosen MVP is a great accomplishment. My hard work and dedication really paid off. Playing club soccer, working with my trainer and taking advice from my coaches has improved my game. I have also benefited from having teammates who have also raised their level of play, especially for the big games. Their hustle and determination made it easier for me to make critical plays.
Q: On the district list you were named Utility Player of the Year for being able to play multiple positions, but which position is your favorite?
MELLORY: When it comes to playing soccer, I enjoy all the positions equally. If I have to play just one position, however, I would choose defender since I started soccer playing this position. As a defender I enjoy surveying the entire field and determining which opponent is the greatest threat. And if I am fortunate to steal the ball then I enjoy turning up field and forcing my opponents on their heels.
Q: What was the most memorable part of the season for you?
MELLORY: The most memorable part of the season was our game against McHi. They had come into the game with an incredible winning streak and we were considered underdogs. But we were playing at home and raised our level of play to match theirs. I was proud of the effort from my teammates; everyone had a great game and on many instances it seemed as though we might upset McHi. Although we lost, this game allowed us to show our team’s potential and love for the sport.
Q: You are just a junior and will be back for another year. What is something you hope to improve upon during the offseason?
MELLORY: Before the next season starts, I would like to improve on becoming a better forward so that I am able to help the team score more goals.
Q: You have an older sister that also played for Harlingen South a few years back. How has she helped you with your game?
MELLORY: Her love and dedication for the game encouraged me to play soccer at a young age. Ever since I was little, I would see her use her speed and skills to outsmart the other players, which fascinated me and inspired me to do the same.
Lady Cardinals land three players to the All-STAR team
After a great 2018 campaign that saw the Harlingen High girls soccer team finish the District 32-6A season at 11-3, the Lady Cardinals landed three players on this year’s Valley Morning Star All-STAR team and head coach Debra Galvan was named this year’s All-STAR Coach of the Year.
Senior Leah Leal was named Offensive Player of the Year, Kaela DeLeon was tabbed Defensive Player of the Year and freshman Claire Reed was selected as Newcomer of the Year.
Together the trio helped guide the Lady Cardinals to one of their best seasons in recent memory, including a postseason berth, which is something Harlingen had not accomplished in six seasons.
LEAH LEAL, Senior
Q: What does it mean to you to be named Offensive Player of the Year?
LEAH: It is a great honor being named offensive player of the year. I realize there is a lot of talent in our district and I am humbled to be chosen by the coaches.
Q: This season was one of the best in Lady Cardinal history. What made this season special?
LEAH: I’ve been playing Lady Cardinal soccer for four years, it was only a matter of time before our team came together. This year we had some outstanding underclassmen along with us seniors that all stepped up to complete our team. Our team bonded early on and we set out to reach our goals with the help of our coaches.
Q: You mentioned that you played club soccer. Where did you play and how do you think it helped in your development as a player?
LEAH: I played for many different clubs but my high school years I played with Sting Austin ECNL (Elite Club National League). My Sting team really helped me develop my skills and expose me to competition all over the United States. National tournaments in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and Oklahoma etc… It gave me the opportunity to play year round in front of many college recruiting coaches which has led me to receive a scholarship from a Division 1 University.
Q: What type of sacrifices did you have to make in order to get to the next level?
LEAH: There was a lot of late-night drives on Sunday nights that my parents made for me to get back to school by Monday morning. Many times we wouldn’t get home until 3 or 4 a.m. My parents sacrificed a lot of family functions and weekends at home. We were traveling every weekend. My younger brother was a trooper, traveling everywhere with me and my older brother felt orphaned at home because we were never there. It felt like I had little to no social life. But I would do it all over again. I made a lot of friends and memories with great opportunities.
Q: Sadly your senior season is over. What is something you want to tell to the next group of players eager to take your place or the underclassmen on your team?
LEAH: Study, have fun and keep the ball at your feet. Train hard and, if possible, complement your high school season with club play. Women’s soccer is growing in the Valley and one day soon I will see the Lady Cardinals at the top!
KAELA DELEON, Senior
Q: What does it mean to you to be named Defensive Player of the Year?
KAELA: To be named Defensive Player of the Year is a great accomplishment. I feel that as a defender, sometimes defense does not get recognized as often as offense because we are not the ones scoring. However, by receiving this title it goes to show that people are, in fact, watching defense. My past four years playing high school soccer has been an ongoing struggle with injuries, so for me to complete my senior year injury free really pushed me to play harder and prove that a defender is just as important. I feel honored and proud to be named Defensive Player of the Year.
Q: As a defensive player, who’s the toughest player you’ve had to cover?
KAELA: I cannot really name a specific player who has been my toughest opponent, but I can describe a type of player that is always tough to cover. An offensive player who is quick and has great ball skills is always a player you know is going to put up a good game. This player knows tricks to try and throw a defender off their game and has the speed to run a break away. I think these types of players are the ones that put up the toughest fight. They challenged me to think one step ahead and keep up to speed with them. In a game with an offensive player like this, I had to always be on my toes and there was no room for mistakes.
Q: Is there a pro athlete that you model your game after?
KAELA: Growing up, I would enjoy watching the USA women’s national team play. I would pay extra attention to Abby Wambach. And although she is not a defender, she still stood out to me and encouraged me to play the game. Wambach was an amazing forward and was known for her even more amazing headers. I think because of how she played, with no fear, inspired me to play just the same.
Q: It was your senior season. What are you going to miss the most?
KAELA: I think what I am going to miss the most from this season is the underclassmen. This year we really grew as a team and got a lot closer to one another than the previous years. It did not hit me until the last game of our season that that would be the last time I would get to play on the field with a great group of girls. Having the freshmen come in and creating a bond with them only to leave this year, is something that does not hit you until the end. I think the feeling of leaving something behind that was apart of you for four years is a hard thing to do.
CLAIRE REED, Freshman
Q: What does it mean to you to be noticed as Newcomer of the Year?
CLAIRE: To me, being noticed as Newcomer of the Year is a big accomplishment because all of my hard work and training has paid off. I am truly blessed for this recognition and look forward to the next three years in becoming a better player and working even harder.
Q: You’re a freshman. What was the hardest part of adapting to the varsity game?
CLAIRE: The hardest part was probably adapting to how aggressive everyone was. I was very nervous because I wasn’t as big as everyone, especially because I was playing with girls who were older than me. I was worried I would get injured early on in the season, but once the season started I realized that being aggressive is just part of the game. Between playing club ball and varsity, the combination of both really improved my game and I hope to do even better next season.
Q: What is something that sticks out in your mind when you think of your first season? Why that specific memory?
CLAIRE: Something that stuck out to me while playing my first season as a Cardinal was how quickly the team bonded with each other. It was as if we had been playing with each other for years. The players on the team weren’t just individuals, we all had something that made the team better and we supported each other all the time. When I scored the goal that tied Robert Vela 5-5, the team was fired up, we knew we could do it and worked together to get that last goal to end their season.
Q: What is something you learned from playing with Leah Leal?
CLAIRE: I learned plenty from Leah, but the one thing I could never learn from anyone else is to never to underestimate somebody’s ability when they really want something. Playing with Leah during the playoffs was amazing. She really wanted us to try our hardest and put our best foot forward when we were on that field. She taught me to always play with my heart and I thank her for that.
San Benito’s Castellanos earns All-STAR Utility Player of the Year nod
San Benito’s Guadalupe “Lupe” Castellanos is the Valley Morning Star’s All-STAR Utility Player of the Year. The junior played multiple positions for the Lady Greyhounds and was named to this year’s District 32-6A first-team midfield.
“Lupe is our team captain and I feel blessed to have coached such a great student-athlete who represents San Benito CISD in a positive light,” said San Benito head coach Eddie Gonzalez. “From the midfield to the forward position, Lupe played multiple positions at a high level and she plays the game with passion while having lots of fun doing so.”
Q: What does it mean to you to be named this year’s All-STAR Utility Player of the year?
LUPE: It means a lot to me and to my family. My family, friends and coaches have always pushed me to do my best and I’m happy to say it paid off.
Q: As a junior what do you plan on working on during the offseason?
LUPE: I’m planning on practicing all summer and playing in a summer league to get better and gain experience in order to make my last year in high school the best year, and give it my all during the season.
Q: How did you start playing soccer?
LUPE: I started playing soccer my 8th grade year in middle school. I had no idea how to even kick a ball and I didn’t even have cleats of my own, but I had a great coach who taught me the sport and helped me realize the love I had for the sport.
Q: As everybody knows, the World Cup starts next month. Who do you think will win?
LUPE: Well, I would love to say Mexico because that’s the team I grew up watching at my house, but I’m going to have to go with Spain on this one. I think Spain will win the World Cup because they have great players and great defenders, and have a really good chemistry between them, which is the key to a soccer team.