As if on cue, Mother Nature ushered in the soccer season at Wildcat Stadium Thursday with biting north winds gusting to 40 mph and wind chills that dipped into the lower teens. It was near perfect weather for running around in shorts on Day 1 of the annual R.K. Hall & Kings Classic soccer tournament.
The Paris Ladycats battled to a scoreless tie in their mid-afternoon match with the Chapel Hill Lady Bulldogs, while the Paris Wildcats edged the Pleasant Grove Hawks, 1-0, in the tournament nitecap.
The tournament’s 12 participating teams will be greeted by near-balmy conditions on Friday with temps in the 40s, full sun, and quieter winds. Only in Texas, where football rules the fall and soccer is deemed an appropriate winter sport.
While high school soccer teams and their faithful fans are accustomed to battling the low temps, the gale-force winds turned the matches into half-field slugfests favoring the team defending the north goal. Still, the extreme breeze totally negated skill from the sport.
“It’s just as ridiculous playing with (the wind) as it is playing against it,” Ladycats head coach Matt Dickinson said after watching his team miss what should have been a golden scoring opportunity.
His team had the wind at their backs in the first half. The Ladycats’ best chance on goal came midway through the opening half when a shot by senior Zanesha Dangerfield sailed just over the goal and hit the football crossbar.
Veteran senior defender Sarah Bloodworth turned in the play of the match in the closing minute before halftime. Paris goalie Grace Woodby became entangled in a Chapel Hill challenge at the top of the 18-yard box. A Lady Bulldog managed to send an uncontested shot on goal, but Bloodworth made a 10-yard sprint to reach the ball and knock it out of play just before it crossed the goalmouth.
Bloodworth immediately received a heartfelt hug from Woodby for her heroics.
Bloodworth was able to clear a couple of other scoring opportunities facing the wind in the second half to fight off endless pressure from the CHill offense. In the final 15 seconds, a Lady Bulldog shot ricocheted off the football crossbar and ensured the scoreless draw.
Paris (2-2-1) crossed midfield just once in the second half when freshman Erika Garcia caught up with a through ball and made a deep run before losing possession out of bounds. The subsequent throw in quickly sent the teams back into the Paris side of the field.
The Paris boys also had the wind at their backs during the first half of their match vs. PG. Seniors Felix Vasquez and Cole Miller each had clear shots on goal from 20 yards out, but their attempts sailed over the net.
A deep throw-in by junior Alan Garcia started the goal producing play just 1:35 before halftime. A teammate quickly turned and fired on goal, but the shot was headed into the left corner by a PG defender. Garcia followed up his own throw-in to catch up with the rebound and send the ball on a sharp trajectory that just beat the Hawk goalkeeper to the short side.
Wildcat goalie Luis Herrera had to make a tricky stop on a PG shot from 30 yards away in the second half, and Miller was able to clear the rebound. A final Hawk attempt from 20 yards out sailed over the goal with 15 seconds remaining to seal the win for Paris, now 2-1-1.
In other girls matches on Day 1, Athens opened the tournament with a 7-0 out of Pittsburg before the cold front ushered in the brutal winds and Sulphur Springs played Canyon Randall to a scoreless draw. On the boys’ side, Pittsburg and Kemp also ended 0-0 and Kennedale beat North Lamar, 4-1.
The Ladycats play Pittsburg at 2:30 on today, while the Wildcats get Kennedale at 7.