The defensive trio of Samantha DeHoyos, Milly Garcia and Julieta Onofre helped the Laredo Heat SC U13 team advance to the state finals.
Laredo Heat SC Youth Academy U13 defenders Julieta Onofre, Samantha DeHoyos and Milly Garcia and head coach Juan Ibarra are pictured after practice on Monday, June 14, 2021.
Opposing forwards advancing into the final third against the Laredo Heat SC Youth Academy U13 team at last month’s state finals were often in for a surprise as they had the only three girls participating in the tournament ready and waiting on the back line. Samantha DeHoyos, Milly Garcia and Julieta Onofre played key parts in helping the Heat advance to the state finals.
“They competed at a really high level at the state tournament,” Laredo Heat U13 head coach Juan Ibarra said. “We were the only team playing with three girls, and they did amazing. They have a great talent. If they continue with this development, I think they can have a good chance to go all the way to a national team. Hopefully they continue with everything, and we’re going to be here to help them out.”
The female trio played a key role in the Heat advancing to the state finals and finishing in third place. The team dominated in district play to advance to the finals. They opened with a 1-0 win over BVB International Academy then won 5-0 over Capital City SC and 2-1 over Lone Star SC before taking on Lone Star SC again in the playoffs and winning 4-2 to advance.
“It was fun,” Garcia said. “It was hard, but we had fun.”
Laredo opened the state finals with a 1-1 draw against FC Westlake on May 14. The next day they were edged 3-2 by eventual champion Paso Del Norte FC. The Heat were up 2-1 with five minutes to play, but a pair of miscues cost them the match. On the final day of the tournament on May 16, the Heat beat HDDYSC Dynamo Kingwood 3-2 before falling 6-2 against HDDYSC Dynamo Woodlands.
“They did really good. We were unlucky to be honest,” Ibarra said. “It was five teams at the state tournament, and I think we were the best. We lost a little bit of concentration, but it was the first tournament for them, and they did well. We’re looking forward to being better at the next tournament, and I know we have the capacity to win the state. We’re so proud of the team, and we know that in the next one we’ll have a really good chance to win the state.”
The Heat’s owners were thrilled with the performance of the female trio and the U13 team as a whole. They share Ibarra’s confidence about the team’s potential.
“As an organization, we’re very proud of the U13 team and how they excelled,” Laredo Heat SC President Shashi Vaswani said. “In addition, the three females on the team really added another dimension. We hope we can continue their growth in the sport of soccer. We’re looking forward to growing a women’s/girls’ program that everybody can be proud of.”
DeHoyos, Garcia and Onofre said they were amused at the occasional looks of surprise from male players when they saw three females defending.
“It’s nice, especially because whenever we play against the guys they are surprised because we are good against them,” DeHoyos said.
Ibarra doesn’t worry at all about gender as he simply sees players that are as talented or more talented than their competition.
“They compete against boys, but there is no difference. I have been with Millie and Julieta since they were 8 or 9 and Samantha for the past couple years,” Ibarra said. “They are talented and hopefully they can continue. They want to compete against boys because their effort is big enough. We’re excited to have them for one more year with the U14 team.”
Ibarra’s confidence in the ability of all three players to continue advancing is fitting since all three expressed an interest in earning collegiate scholarships and playing professionally. DeHoyos and Onofre both listed Lionel Messi as one of their favorite players to watch, and Garcia said she is inspired by her father Felix Garcia who previously played for the Heat during the club’s time in the USL Premier Development League.
“I want to go as high as possible whether that is professional or college,” DeHoyos said. “I think playing for the Heat is a great opportunity since they lead to many other things.”
The Heat are hoping to build up to getting enough female players interested to field a team in a female league eventually. For now, they are welcoming players of any gender to try out to join the team for the upcoming U14 season. The tryouts for the non-pay to play team will be held at 6:30 p.m. June 21 and 22 at the Laredo College south campus for players born in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Anyone interested can register at laredoheatscyouth.com.
“We’ve had this team playing together for two years, and we’re going to continue with that,” Ibarra said. “Hopefully we can add two or three more players that can help us out.”