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    Familiar opponent in unfamiliar territory



    Victoria East's Jahnae Mata battles for control over the ball with Flour Bluff's Kianna Young during the first half of Saturday morning's Crossroads Classic game at Memorial Stadium. Mata scored one of the goals in the 3-1 Titan victory.

    Victoria East's Jahnae Mata battles for control over the ball with Flour Bluff's Kianna Young during the first half of Saturday morning's Crossroads Classic game at Memorial Stadium. Mata scored one of the goals in the 3-1 Titan victory. Photo by Angeli Wright.

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    Victoria East's Rachel Mansker attempts to gain control of the ball from Flour Bluff's Katrina Maldonado.

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    Victoria East's Madison Hawkins races Flour Bluff's Sarah Thompson to the ball. Hawkins scored two goals in the 3-1 Titan victory.

    Common Opponents

    Rockport-Fulton, Gregory-Portland and Laredo Cigarroa have all played Victoria East and Flour Bluff this season. Here is how the two teams stacked up:

    Victoria East

    Rockport-Fulton 3-0, 4-1

    Gregory-Portland 1-2, 1-2

    Laredo Cigarroa 4-1

    Flour Bluff

    Rockport-Fulton 4-0

    Gregory-Portland 2-1, 1-2

    Laredo Cigarroa 1-0, 1-1

    Stoked. Psyched. Excited.

    The word amazed was also thrown out by the Victoria East girls soccer team when asked to describe the feeling ahead of Thursday's Class 4A sectional playoff game.

    In the three-year history of the school, East (19-5-1) has not advanced this far in the playoffs. As euphoric as the team may be, members are not ready to end their season, especially to a team they have previously defeated this season.

    "It's been exciting having an amazing team and making it so far," said senior winger Nanci Vazquez. "It's good to say that our team is awesome, and when we graduate, we'll be amazed at how hard we worked and thankful that we've made it this far."

    East beat Flour Bluff 3-1 earlier this season and eliminated the Lady Hornets in the 2012 bi-district playoffs.

    Past history does not mean much to the Titans. Senior defender Whitney Wiley alluded to as much Monday when she said "new players can change the whole atmosphere sometimes."

    Flour Bluff freshman Caleigh Tucker has been a pest to opposing defenses for most of the season. In January, Tucker was a winger in the Lady Hornets 4-3-3 system, but against Victoria West in the bi-district playoffs, she was deployed at center forward.

    "I'm very confident in our team and our defensive line and what we can do," Wiley said. "If we work together and watch the players and where they are running to, you can still fight against their attacks."

    Tucker assisted the opening goal when the Lady Hornets (18-6-3) lost to East on Jan. 12 in the Crossroads Classic. In that contest, the Lady Hornets gave away the lead with just under 15 minutes remaining due to an own goal.

    At the time, Flour Bluff head coach Mario Lopez said the own goal was due to the Titans putting his team under pressure.

    These days, it's Lopez's team that is applying the pressure. Flour Bluff is undefeated in its last 16 matches (13-0-3), and no team has scored more than once against the Lady Hornets defense.

    "Our goal is to improve everywhere: with our passing, our ability to control the ball and possession; our defense, gosh, they have come a long way; our finishing has improved," said Victoria East coach Misty Boenig. "We're far from the super studs we want to be, but our improvement has been kind."

    At the beginning of the season, Wiley would frequently clear the ball away as soon as possible. These days, when the ball bounces to the senior, she takes time to survey her passing options and boots the ball away only as a last resort.

    "I think as we've become more comfortable with each other, our whole play has started meshing together and flowing a lot better, which helped a lot," Wiley said. "It helped me calm down. Everyone became a family and had so much trust in each other that it helped us improve with our skills as well."

    The problem for the Titans is their opponents have improved as well over the past three months. Boenig is aware of that, and so are her players. Nevertheless, the Titans are going to play their brand of ball and hope for the best.



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