Hornet soccer victorious in home opener

Jan. 26—HUNTSVILLE — Despite the weather not cooperating throughout the entire week, Huntsville soccer finally hit the pitch.

After a near seven-day layoff, the Hornets battled against Huffman-Hargrave in the soccer opening of Huntsville ISD Stadium.

When the final buzzer went off, Huntsville left happy as they took the match 2-0 with District 16 play looming.

"That is special for the kids and us. I've been here 17 years and I have been around that space a bunch, and it hasn't always looked like that," Huntsville soccer coach Robert Taylor said. "In some ways, it's still the same. But, there are some things we get to do now that we haven't always gotten to do. The boys' got some pride and feel out of it."

The Hornets struck early in the match with senior Salvador Landeros starting the scoring. Moving the ball was key for Huntsville as well as they set up their second goal.

Junior Raul Pina hit the second goal for Huntsville but then it became a goalkeeper game as Huffman had two opportunities to score goals.

Senior keeper Isauro Zuniga was in goal for the match and made a handful of plays that kept his team ahead.

"There were two moments where we thought it could have been dangerous but our goalkeeper did his job and made a routine save. Our defender did his job and pushed him outside," Taylor said.

With the rain that fell all through Huntsville since Monday, outside activities were postponed and moved all around to accommodate the weather and mixed in lightning.

Doing so had the Hornets looking for a place to practice and play some soccer. Getting the game in was pivotal too as the meaningful part of the season is getting ready to start Tuesday, when they face Lufkin in the district opener.

"I think it was vital for us to play because we hadn't touched a soccer ball since last Friday," Taylor said. "It was nice to get out there and be on the field that they will start district on. It was nice to understand that footing and it felt a little different than they have been recently. It was good for them to get out and feel the environment."

Huntsville has completed 10 non-district games now and with a 4-4-2 record, they have made leaps and bounds to get better. Specifically on defense.

Over the last 10 games, Huntsville has given up 13 goals, but eight of them came between two games.

In non-district play, Huntsville coupled up four 6A schools to go along with a mix of 4A and 5A schools that are all playoff contenders and have competed in the state finals in the past few years.

But getting the win going into district play gave Huntsville a boost.

"We've been in spots before where in the final game if you win you are in, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to go out and find teams that have challenged themselves the way we have in non-district," Taylor said. "I knew before we played Huffman that they are a decent 4A group. Letting the guys have the sense of putting in the work, and getting the win is important. I think the positive thing is we are relatively healthy and we aren't missing guys with red cards. We are going to start Tuesday with our group and the way we expect to look."

Huntsville will rely on Zuniga, Pina and Hornet football kicker Joseph Mejia is going to be a vital part of the team this season and has already stepped up.

Zuniga has played 613 minutes in goal and has totaled 38 saves.

Mejia, while he brought the leg for football, is a back-row player who can help secure opposing offenses.

"We have a positive core. There are some moments where the goalkeeper has done some stuff that isn't average goalkeeper stuff. When he is making those saves you have a solid keeper," Taylor said. "Joseph was a guy that became a solid piece to the backline. Every time Anthony has been in the game he gets involved. They aren't out there scoring all the goals but they have done a really good job."

Huntsville will open its district season with another home match at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Huntsville ISD Stadium.