The Pleasanton Lady Eagles kicked in the door on the new season with a second place finish at their annual Battle of the Brush Country tournament at the Eagle Sports Complex over the weekend.
The Lady Eagles won four matches in a row (3-2 vs Bandera, 3-0 vs Manor New Tech, 2-0 vs Corpus Christi London, 1-0 vs Beeville Jones) to get into the championship match after a scoreless draw with Floresville to open the tournament on Thursday. Their only loss came in a 4-1 result against Class 5A Medina Valley in the championship match.
Despite finishing second, head coach Brant Bird said the weekend was an overall win for the Pleasanton women’s soccer team.
“I’m very pleased with the results,” coach Bird said. “Obviously, we would love to have won, but, when you schedule good quality opponents like this, you don’t always win. But I don’t view tournaments as must-win situations. It’s a good time to look at the different formations, where girls fit in. That was accomplished. We started off a little rough against Floresville, made some changes and I think it was a good three days.”
Senior forward Madelyn Bird kicked off her campaign with seven goals in six matches, including six goals in the Lady Eagles’ final three pool play matches. Bird also tallied a pair of assists.
“I was really confident in my teammates going into the weekend because our practices had been really spot on and my dad did a really good job of finding drills that were realistic to game situations,” Madelyn said. “So, I felt like the team was very confident going into the tournament.”
The senior, who scored the eventual game-winner against Bandera five minutes into the second half, was one of four Lady Eagles to bag goals over the three-day tournament. Delanee Olivarri and Kaitlyn Garcia also found their way on the scoresheet for the Lady Eagles.
Another one of those four was freshman Brylee Miller, who’s lone goal of the tournament came in the dying seconds of their semifinal match with Beeville on a through ball from Bird.
“The great thing about our team is that we have so many players who can score, it doesn’t have to be just me or Sofia [Rivera],” Madelyn praised. “With a freshman — with Brylee coming in, I was so excited. I saw her make the run and I gave it to her. I didn’t have a doubt that she was gonna make it. I was really happy she got to experience that goal with us.”
Miller didn’t even need to think with the ball at her feet and a wide open, 1-on-1 look at goal in just her fifth match at the varsity level.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking,” Miller said. “I just knew I had to get the ball where it needed to be. I did my best to put it where it needed to be. It was a great [pass]. I just kicked it and it was amazing.”
Bird and Miller joined Olivarri, Rivera and Carly Jo Esquivel in the assist column. Bird and Olivarri led the way for the weekend with two assists apiece, while Esquivel, Miller and Rivera each had one to their names.
Seeing his team find confidence and rhythm in the attacking third of the field was a highly promising sign to Bird.
“I think it’s good because [Madelyn] can’t do it herself, obviously,” Bird said. “Without the passes from all of the different areas — they’re coming from the center midfield, the outside midfield, they’re even coming from the [defensive] backs … So, the team gains confidence whenever [Madelyn] scores one or Brylee hits that one in the last minute against Beeville. They don’t care who gets it, as long as it goes in. Seeing the ball finally go into the back of the net after that nil-nil draw to start the tournament, I think they were kind of puzzled. They were like, ‘Hey, we score goals. That’s what we do.’ So, things weren’t right. Then we put three in against Bandera and continued to score. We weren’t shut out after that. So, that was good to see.”
Coach Bird was very proud to see goalkeeper Sydney Merecka come away from the weekend with four clean sheets to her credit.
Merecka started out as a midfielder for the Lady Eagles, before moving between the posts.
“Syd has really come into her own,” coach Bird said. “She had that goalkeeping background from club, but she never fully bought into being a goalkeeper until this year and last year she was my starting goalkeeper. But it was ‘That’s where the team needs me, that’s where I’m gonna play.’ This year, she’s made the position her own. I think coach [Wesley] Joseph has given her some confidence in that. She’s coachable and makes adjustments very easily. She’s honest with both coaches. When she’s feeling something that’s not right, she’ll tell us so we can make adjustments. The team knows when the ball’s back there, she’s gonna stop it. So, that’s nice to have.”
The Lady Eagles (4-1- 1) will travel to the San Marcos tournament this weekend.