Mansker, Mata lead Victoria East to Crossroads Classic crown

Jan. 12, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated Jan. 11, 2013 at 7:12 p.m.

Victoria East's Jahnae Mata battles for control over the ball with Flour Bluff's Kianna Young during the first half of Saturday morning's Crossroads Classic game at Memorial Stadium. Mata scored one of the goals in the 3-1 Titan victory.

Victoria East's Jahnae Mata battles for control over the ball with Flour Bluff's Kianna Young during the first half of Saturday morning's Crossroads Classic game at Memorial Stadium. Mata scored one of the goals in the 3-1 Titan victory.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

Rachel Mansker has a developed a reputation for her free kick taking abilities over the last two seasons. However, the Victoria East midfielder recently confided she doesn't really like taking corner kicks.

With the junior co-captian focusing on other responsibilities, Jahnae Mata has stepped into that role, with aplomb.

It was Mata's pinpoint corner kick, from the near sideline that was volleyed home by Mansker in the 23rd minute of Victoria East's game Saturday afternoon against St. Joseph. The goal tied contest 1-1.

Mansker and Mata were responsible for the Titans two other goals, which were enough to lift Victoria East to a 3-2 win in the championship game of the Crossroads Classic.

"I'm a hungry goal-getter," said Mansker with a laugh Saturday afternoon when asked why she doesn't like taking corners. "Jahnae gets them spot on, so I give her credit. If you have someone who is better than me on corner, put them out there."

Mansker's reputation for long range goals is on par with her free kick abilities. She scored another one Saturday on her way to being named the tournament's Offensive MVP.

East improved to 4-0-0 on the season with the win. Saturday's come from behind win capped off a tournament where the Titans beat a pair of district champions from 2012 as well as an in-town school.

St. Joseph (3-1-0) forward Amanda Groenhuyzen scored two goals, one in the fifth minute and her second in the 24th minute to give the Lady Flyers a 2-1 advantage.

Groenhuyzen was named to the All-tournament team after scoring eight goals in four games. But, the speedy senior forward didn't score again after intermission.

East's freshman defender Lauren Rangnow was step for step with Groenhuyzen when she appeared to be behind the Titans defense. When the St. Joseph forward was able to unleash a shot, Kelsey Ferry came up with three strong stops in the first 10 minutes of the second half to keep the game tied 2-2.

"I think we're really close this year," said Mata, a sophomore winger who provided either a goal, or an assist in all four tournament games. "The feeling is amazing, we've all gotten better and we've gotten closer."

East has a new system this year, which through four games appears to suit them perfectly. Or as Mata quipped when asked about it "Our coach is amazing. She knows what she's doing."

It's unknown whether Misty Boenig heard the endorsement. But, the smile Boenig sported afterward was indicative of the pride she had in a team that has improved since a 4-2 loss to Beeville in the area playoffs last year.

East defeated Flour Bluff 3-1 earlier Saturday morning using slick passing and wing play to beat a perennial playoff team. Later in the day, against St. Joseph, the Lady Titans showed their tactical flexibility by routinely bypassing the midfield in an attempt to get the ball to Mata, center forward Madison Hawkins and winger Nanci Vazquez.

"Rachel is really good and Morgan (Wyatt) is really good," Rangnow said about East's center midfielders. "They were trying to control the middle, so we were trying to send it up to our forwards and get a better chance at scoring."

That's exactly how the match-winner was created. Destinee Kueker, the third person in East's central midfield, threaded a through ball to Mata on the right wing in the 60th minute.

Mata took one touch and put in a hard right-footed shot the St. Joseph goalkeeper got a fingertip to, but not enough to keep out. The placement of the goal was so perfect, St. Joseph's Nicole Sontheimer and Morgan Barker congratulated Mata on it afterward.

Sontheimer and Barker are Mata's teammates on the Victoria Heat '95, a local club soccer team that recently won the South Texas Youth Soccer Association U19 state championship.

The most conflicted person at Memorial Stadium on the gloomy afternoon may have been Scott Sontheimer. He's the husband of St. Joseph soccer coach Vicki Sontheimer and father of two Flyers players, but he's also coaches Mansker, Mata and Kelsey Ferry for the Victoria Heat.

"It means a lot," Mansker said of the tournament victory. "We're all very excited for the season."



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