GIRLS SOCCER: Odessa High finds playoff consistency, downs El Paso Socorro

MIDLAND The Odessa High girls soccer team knew it was now or never.

The Lady Bronchos knew their season would end if they couldn’t put together a complete 80-minute performance in their Class 6A bi-district playoff matchup against El Paso Socorro Friday.

Luckily for Odessa High, it saved possibly its best performance of the season for its opening-round playoff game.

The Lady Bronchos downed the Lady Bulldogs 3-1 at Grande Communications Stadium after consistently finding ways to break down Socorro’s defense.

The victory is Odessa High’s first playoff win since 2014 when the team’s current seniors were freshmen.

“It’s definitely been a long three years,” Lady Bronchos’ senior midfielder Zaida Lopez said. “Right now, I feel so excited and so happy and I’m just super glad that I was able to come in this playoff game and provide for my team.”

Early on, Odessa High (17-5-2) controlled the tempo of the match making Socorro’s defense spread out. While on defense, the Lady Bronchos were forced to bend, but not break at the Lady Bulldogs’ chances.

That opened the gate for Alondra Venegas and the game’s opening goal.

About 17 minutes in, a ball was sent in between the Odessa High junior and Socorro goalkeeper Geraldine Stevens. Stevens didn’t immediately react, and Venegas saw her opportunity.

“I figured if I had a good sprint I could beat her on that flick if I wanted to,” Venegas said.

That’s exactly what she did — get to the ball first and tap it past Stevens to put the Lady Bronchos up 1-0. Venegas even put her body on the line to score the opening goal when she collided with Stevens — causing an awkward landing that put her out of action for the rest of the first half.

The Lady Bulldogs started the second half putting pressure on the Lady Bronchos’ defense — eventually leading to a penalty kick.

Socorro senior midfielder Andrea Castaneda made no mistake — sending the ball to the right of Odessa High goalkeeper Catalina Ulate and into the back of the net with 26 minutes left in the game.

From there — it was all Lady Bronchos.

Three minutes after Socorro tied the game, Odessa High regained the lead. The Lady Bronchos connected with a few passes in the midfield and a window opened for Zaida Lopez.

Lopez received a pass from Venegas, sending her on a breakaway against Stevens. Lopez was able to reach the ball about 12 yards from goal and slotted it into the net.

“They responded as good as anyone can respond from being scored on and tying it up,” Odessa High head coach Cecilia Kellar said about her team. “Socorro did a great job; they put us under a ton of pressure that second half with the wind. Zaida came in incredibly clutch there.”

Two minutes later, Odessa High extended its lead over Socorro (19-3-1) when again it found space.

Yverika Gonzales beat a Socorro defender and curled the ball into the penalty box where Venegas was waiting. Venegas headed it into the net opposite of the way Stevens was leaning.

The Lady Bronchos put the game in cruise control from there and secured their spot in the area round.

“It boosts our confidence greatly and we know exactly what we can do,” Lopez said. “And this is just the beginning. I think this team can provide a lot more and go a lot higher than we did today.”

Odessa High will play Mansfield in the area round next Thursday, Friday or Saturday in a location that is to be determined.

The Lady Bronchos know however that when they face the Lady Tigers that they’ll need a similar performance to take down the District 4-6A champion.

“It really comes down the team who wants their season to continue the most and the girls definitely showed that they wanted it,” Kellar said about her team’s bi-district effort. “They fought all 80 minutes. The girls definitely earned the win today.”