STEFAN MODRICH, Staff Writer
Wherever the ball was during Brownsville Hanna’s 1-0 win over Harlingen High on Tuesday night, Isabel Ortiz was always nearby.
The freshman Lady Eagles midfielder scored the lone goal in the District 32-6A contest, coming at the 19-minute mark of the second half off of a turnover generated by senior defender Hillary Pina in the Lady Cardinals’ end.
“(Pina) really set it up for me,” Ortiz said. “She always tells me to be back there for support, so I was there for a rebound.”
Ortiz lofted the ball, and to her surprise, it cleared the head and outstretched fingertips of the Harlingen High keeper.
“I honestly thought I kicked it over the goal,” Ortiz said. “I thought I kicked it too hard. My goals usually go slowly (into the net), and I didn’t really expect it to go in.”
Harlingen High fought to keep the game even at the break, squaring up on a shot that hit the football crossbar, coming up short on a free-kick opportunity with 17 minutes play during the first half and then saving a Brownsville Hanna penalty shot that came after a handball in the box with five minutes to go.
But the Lady Eagles withstood some of the Lady Cardinals’ best rushes, and eventually began to play with a pace and a rhythm that turned the game in their favor.
Ortiz made her presence felt on the defensive end as well, optimally positioning herself in front of her own net and clearing the ball after a Harlingen High corner kick late in the second half.
“We started making more plays and connecting the ball more,” Ortiz said of her team’s halftime adjustments. “We were faster in the second half, too. We always start off a little shaky and then we get ourselves together, like we did toward the end of the first half and then the beginning of the second half.”
Brownsville Hanna coach Eliseo Guzman said his team playing with the wind at its back gave his girls a boost during the second half.
“That’s what we talked about at the half,” Guzman said. “We had the air on our side, or in our favor, and we needed to take shots from further away.”
Brownsville Hanna and Harlingen High battled to keep possession and spent a good portion of the second half at midfield, but Guzman’s squad eventually began to click, stringing short passes together along the sidelines and accelerating with urgency upfield.
Guzman praised his two other freshmen — Angelina Castillo and forward Kristy Hernandez — for their stout defensive effort.
“Angelina did a great job guiding the other girls on defense,” Guzman said. “I think that had a lot to do with the win.”
On Friday, the Lady Eagles will travel to San Benito to play the Lady ’Hounds, and Harlingen High will play host to the Los Fresnos Lady Falcons.
“We’re trying to go step by step,” Guzman said. “(Harlingen High) was a tough team, so thank God we got the win. We’re going to go game by game.”