|Lena Candia (20), the team's leading scorer||Fernando Mendoza (11), who scored winning goal|
What A What Way To Begin Soccer!
September 20, 2007 -- a date that will be remembered in Scorpion sports history -- was the birth of collegiate soccer at UTB/TSC.
And what a day it was.
The Scorpions were finally playing home games -- the women started the season with eight games on the road and the men with seven away from home. The Scorpions were facing Huston-Tillotson University, with the women's game starting at 5 p.m. and the men's game getting under way 30 minutes after the end of the women's game.
Brownsville was there to greet them. Counting about 400 people standing outside the fences peering through and on berms above the fence line, there were about 1,000 people in attendance for the men's game. The attendance total is the most for a Scorpion athletic event in at least 30 years.
Atmosphere was "Unbelievable"
The atmosphere was something Scorpion Athletics had never seen before. "That was one of the greatest environments for collegiate soccer I've ever seen," Scorpion head coach Dan Balaguero said. "It was unbelievable. I hope we get that kind of support all season."
Brownsville soccer fans appreciate good soccer. They knew exactly when to cheer and when to stay quiet. They appreciate the efforts of ball control and great defensive plays.
Balaguero made sure the fans did not go home unthanked. After the game was over, the Scorpions lined up and walked over to the home crowd at midfield. They faced the crowd, held hands and bowed together to thank the spectators for their support.
Tailgaters and Band Make Noise
There was a group of at least 24 UTB/TSC staff members organized by Jerry Martinez of the Office of the Registrar who formed a Scorpion Tailgate Party and fired up a barbecue pit on the west side. The barbecue smoke could be seen by everyone and food was rated a 10. They even created their own makeshift logo with a Scorpion pinchers holding a knife and fork with a soccer ball between the pinchers. They promise to be back.
There was Chino's Army, a group of seven UTB/TSC students and non-students who have been following the career of Scorpion sophomore soccer player Rogelio "Chino" Perez since his days at Porter High School. They brought with them three drums which they beat proudly and consistently before, during and after the game.
The makeshift band chanted different phrases during the game in Spanish, like "Queremos un gol" (We want a goal) and "Queremos a Chino" (We want Chino). They shouted many more phrases that were tasteful and funny but not fit for print. The drums beat all night long. If the group returns and stands behind the fence on a berm directly behind the visitors' bench like they did Thursday night, they are sure to distract the opposition every time.
They got on the field after the game and Chino played drums with them.
News Media Documented the History
The media caught in on tape. The Brownsville Herald, which is getting into the video business, caught the men's game. News/Sports Director Miguel Castro sent Mike Gonzalez to capture the action. Visit the Local Video section here.
KGBT-TV Channel 4, where Clay Williams proudly boasts that "local sports comes first," caught the action as well. Go to the Featured Videos here and click on UTB/TSC men's soccer.
If you weren't there, at least you can see what you missed.
Scorpion Women Impressive
The crowd for the women's game was about 500 people when the game was over, and they were enjoyed what they saw as well. The Scorpions dispatched of HTU, 4-0, in the early game Thursday.
The Scorpion women are off to a 6-3 start and lead the Red River Athletic Conference with a 2-0 record. Mayra Solis goes down in the history books as scoring the first Scorpion soccer goal at home. She actually scored the first two Scorpion goals, Brittany Moseley the third, and Lena "Watermelon Sandia" Candia the fourth. Vanessa Gallegos had two assists and Lauren Owens one.
Not all games will be this easy, but the women's team is going to make some noise this year. It looks like their strongest opposition will be Northwood, Texas Wesleyan and Texas College.
Coach Nik Barjaktarevic has assembled a group of local talent, domestic players and international players who are playing better together with every game. They deserve just as much attention as the Scorpion men's team and their supporters were very vocal as well.
A Very Physical Men's Game
Coach Balaguero knew the HTU game would be tough, even though the Scorpions stopped the Rams on their home field five days earlier, 5-1. HTU wanted to spoil the home opener.
It was a level of soccer not seen very often in Brownsville. The game was fast and bruising. Bodies were flying everywhere. There were several minor injuries on both sides.
In the eighth minute, Marco Malovic executed a beautiful left-footed free kick that teammate Fernando Mendoza allowed to go through his legs perfectly. David Purser was there waiting on the other side and nailed the first Scorpion goal in men's soccer history. Purser got a little carried away and took his shirt off, costing him a yellow card for "disrobing," as Clay Williams said. HTU later tied it at 1-1.
In the 20th minute, Brian "The Goal Machine" Hardie corralled a loose ball about 20 yards away, controlled it, and fired off a left-footed laser that hit the left corner of the goal. HTU later tied it again at 2-2. He'll be called "La Maquina" here.
A Storybook Finish for the First Game
The tensions were high as the scoreboard clock neared 90 minutes. At about the 86:00 mark, there was a lot of contact 10 yards from the Rams' goal and Fernando Mendoza was fouled and would be awarded a penalty kick. The celebration and anxiety started, and the fans, players and coaches knew what could happen minutes later.
One Huston-'Tillotson player was trying to make Mendoza nervous with some ribbing in Spanish. He even told his teammate goalie that Mendoza's legs were shaking. It was your typical trash-talking on the field.
But Mendoza calmly nailed the shot on the right side of the goal, setting off a celebration in the stands and on the sidelines. Scorpion assistant coach Andy Ravanello jumped on Balaguero like a bear and knocked him down.
The announcer's shouts of "A La Papita" drew a lot of laughter.
The Scorpions would hold on
and win it, 3-2.
A movie scriptwriter could not have written a better day for the Scorpions.
-- Ronnie Zamora