After waiting years for their first playoff victory, 2019 became a breakthrough soccer season for the Harlingen South Hawks.
A span of 25 years or so passed before the Hawks defeated Edinburg Economedes 3-2 in bi-district on March 29 for the school’s first postseason victory in boys soccer. The Hawks enjoyed the win so much they went on to defeat McAllen Rowe 4-1 during the second round.
District 32-6A runner-up South ended the season with a 17-10 record after being eliminated during the third round.
As a result of the Hawks’ newfound playoff success, a number of them are receiving top awards on the Valley Morning Star’s 2019 All-STAR boys soccer team.
Among them are Julian Robles as coach of the year, Angel Ortega as defensive player of the year and Joaquin Ovalle as newcomer of the year.
“It’s been an honor playing for Harlingen South,” said Ortega, a senior team captain who started two seasons out of his three years on the varsity. “Hopefully the ones coming up can do even better, but our (senior) class is the best so far (after these playoff wins).”
Ortega, a central defender, said Robles played an important role in directing the team. Robles has now guided the Hawks to the postseason during three of his five seasons as coach.
“Coach Robles’ intelligence for the game is crazy because he’s shown us things that we never knew, and he’s shown us tactics that have helped us a lot,” Ortega said. “As a player, you need that type of coach to help you get better.
“That’s what Coach Robles did,” Ortega added. “He pushed us to make us better. He told us to keep going and not stop. He did that every practice. He told us if we wanted to go as far as we wanted, we had to work for it. The coaches under him supported us as well.”
Robles said it hasn’t been just him getting the Hawks’ soccer program to go in the right direction.
“It’s important that the players have wanted to win, and the assistant coaches have been great, too,” Robles said. “All I’ve done is bring them a blueprint, and the players are hungry to win (by following it). The assistant coaches are Jose Galvan, Miguel Torres and Alejandro Mendez. They’ve really helped out a lot. No individual accomplishment can be achieved without having a great support group. It takes a great team and a great coaching staff.
“The players are buying into the system,” Robles added. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy getting the program’s first playoff win, but these guys broke through with flying colors. Being named coach of the year is a great honor, but I understand that it’s totally a team effort.”
Robles said Ortega was an important player in the middle of the defense.
“Angel is a very intelligent player,” the coach said. “We always knew since he was on the junior varsity that we could count on him. He always wanted to be the one we counted upon back there (on defense). He’s very talented and can play up front (at forward), but as a team captain and leader of the defense, he knew what we needed to do to win.”
Ortega saw South’s defense as a strong part of the team.
“I would tell the guys on defense to unleash the beast inside of them and just play with all their heart,” Ortega said. “Besides scoring goals, it’s important to defend and prevent goals. As a captain back there, I always wanted the best from my teammates. They gave it their all and proved it on the field, and I was really proud of what we did as a defense. I couldn’t be any happier about the players who were beside me.”
Giving the Hawks hope for the future is the play of Ovalle, who was a freshman starting on the left wing.
“It was an honor playing with these seniors this year,” Ovalle said. “It’s awesome to win this newcomer award because it keeps you motivated to win more awards in the coming years.”
Ortega said there are many people to thank for the memorable season the Hawks just experienced.
“Thank you to all the people who helped us out in getting to our full potential as a team,” Ortega said. “Thanks to the coaches, all of the teachers who helped us and everybody just in general. We felt the full support of Harlingen South. We didn’t forget about them. We were the ones playing for them and trying to make the fans and the school as happy as can be, so it was an honor playing for them.”