HARLINGEN — Harlingen South sophomore Sarah Grace Garza burst onto the scene in 2019 as a freshman amid a stacked group of midfielders and forwards — including then-seniors Alise Garza and Mellory Grannum — to earn the District 32-6A Newcomer of the Year award and Valley Morning Star’s 2019 All-STAR Newcomer of the Year honors.
In her next act, she moved from the midfield to the forward spot to make up for the absence of two of last season’s biggest stars and became the leading scorer for the 32-6A champions, recording 26 goals.
“We needed someone out there (at forward) who could put pressure on the defense,” Lady Hawks coach Omar Pedroza said. “Sarah did an incredible job.”
She is The Valley Morning Star’s 2020 All-STAR Offensive Player of the Year.
“I was pretty surprised when I heard I got (the award) because our district is filled with talented players,” Garza said. “I’m just grateful I could represent South. This year was challenging, but I think we deserved (the recognition), honestly, after everything (we went through).”
Garza appreciated Pedroza’s guidance and thanked him for aiding her in her transition to a new position.
“Ever since my freshman year I was (at left midfield), and one game he moves me to forward,” Garza said. “I wasn’t really comfortable with it, but after a while I just put my faith into it and his vision of the game, and it worked out. I’m grateful he’s our coach. … I’ve just learned to trust him. He’s not like any other coach. He deserves everything, he deserves (the All-STAR coach of the year award), and his 500 wins.”
Becoming accustomed to a new set of players was a challenge for Garza and her teammates with varsity experience, but she said the team made a concerted effort to embrace the newcomers who were brought up from the JV level, enhancing the team’s sense of cohesion.
“We didn’t expect (success) to come easy,” Garza said. “We had to really work hard. It was all just so unpredictable. Every team (we faced) was so good. We just really had to step it up. … But it paid off, it was worth everything we put in.”
Garza credited the Lady Hawks’ experienced veterans and captains for their role in keeping the team hungry for more success, and the spirit of determination that helped them battle their way back after trailing in several key games.
“Ever since the beginning of the season, we’ve just always had that mentality to keep on pushing,” Garza said. “No matter how hard the game was or if we were down, because in many games we were down, we just had to come back harder and stronger, and we did.”
She converted a penalty kick in a victory to open the district slate Jan. 31 at Los Fresnos, added a tying goal in a 3-2 win over Brownsville Hanna on Feb. 14. Against Harlingen High on March 6, she tallied a goal during each half to rally the Lady Hawks from a 2-0 deficit and pick up a 3-2 win (4-3 in PKs.).
“In our previous (meeting), we had lost to (Harlingen High in PKs),” Garza said. “After (the victory over the Lady Cardinals), that was just the most rewarding feeling ever.”