While many teams have long started their district season, the Gonzales Lady Apaches will appear in their first girls soccer district game of the season this Friday as they host La Vernia for a scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff.
Gonzales’ schedule this season posed various challenges for the team, forcing the Lady Apaches use their time wisely between facing against tough opponents and scrimmaging amongst themselves during breaks.
“Ultimately, we’ve had, through the beginning of the season, we’ve had injuries and such, we kind of used that time to get well and regroup and we’ve had lots of time to talk about not just what I want to see but what they want to see,” Gonzales head coach Kassie Fincke said. “We’ve used that time to be competitive, we’ve done some tournaments in practice. I think that we’ve used it to our best ability building not only what I want but what they want.”
Friday night, the Lady Apaches hosted an intra-squad scrimmage, forming a varsity versus junior varsity 11-on-11 game at Apache Field. During the scrimmage, onlookers could tell that the team’s improvements aren’t just up top, but throughout the junior varsity level as well.
“I think the JV team has been very important in that I think it’s taken away a sense of complacency because we’ve got some deep positions where we’ve got lots of options,” Fincke explained. “It’s added a little bit of competitiveness in the girls that they know not only do they have good practice opponents and more people to practice with, but they’ve got to defend their playing time and things like that. We’ve just got more options. We don’t have to put somebody somewhere they don’t like to play anymore because we’ve got more options there.”
Complacency can be a worry for a team who knows they are automatically going to the playoffs.
When realignment was released for this season, District 29-4A was a six-team group with Gonzales, La Vernia, Pleasanton, Poteet, Marion and Yoakum. Marion and Poteet both do not have soccer programs, making the district now a four-team stable. Four teams go to playoffs, meaning Gonzales, La Vernia, Pleasanton and Yoakum are all playoff-bound.
Inner competition may help with complacency, but Fincke also believes that setting the tone early will allow Gonzales to stay motivated throughout these next few weeks.
“We have to set the tone early because I truly think every day we’re building to the fire and when we finally get to playoffs that’s when we got to light the match, to paraphrase Mia Hamm,” Fincke said. “I think we’ve got to use [district] as the stepping stones and not just skip over. I think we got to set the tone early, like I tell them all the time, put our foot on the gas and don’t let off.”
The Lady Apaches will rely on many upperclassmen who’ve had successful seasons such as Sam Gallegos, their leading scorer.
“She hustles hard every single day and she really found her confidence against Rice and took some shots,” Fincke said. “She was also all-tournament player in Giddings as well.”
The ever-versatile Veronica Moreno is also someone to highlight. Fincke noted that she can place Moreno in “three [or] four positions any given night and is a true leader.”
Varsity goalkeepers Sandra Palacios and Abbi Belin have been vital for the development of the younger goalkeepers on the junior varsity team.
“They’ve had to think about and kind of reinvent some things that they did years ago in order to help me build with these new girls,” Fincke said. “Those older girls I think are having to remember some of those basic skills and things that they don’t have to think about every single day and it’s made them better in turn.”
Overall, if the team wants to enter the playoffs with momentum on their side, Fincke believes the Lady Apaches have to “increase our speed of play.”
“Sometimes we get caught watching and that’s just normal, that’s high school girls soccer, totally normal, but just being quick to the ball, keeping our pace the entire game, playing our pace and playing the fast and intense game that we’re used to paying and not falling into another speed,” she said.
“We’ve to be all in,” Fincke added. “Everybody has to be all in and we all got to be all on the same page. I think that heading into Friday, I truly believe that they’re all ready to do it.”
Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m. at Apache Field.