Harlingen High sophomore Maya Quinones had to play a new position this season, and she excelled.
Quinones moved from a defender role to be the forward for the Lady Cardinals. She became the team’s leading scorer, putting 23 goals in the net and contributing eight assists. Quinones was a key part of Harlingen High winning an undefeated District 32-6A championship and reaching the area round of the playoffs. She is the Valley Morning Star’s 2021 All-STAR Girls Soccer Most Valuable Player.
“I was really surprised because it was my first year playing that position,” Quinones said. “I’m really thankful that my coach had that faith in me to put me up there, and my team. It took me a while to get to where I got, but I just studied and tried my best to do it for my team. Preseason was a little rough around the edges, but we fixed it and got there with the hard work.”
Lady Cardinals coach Debra Galvan said it didn’t take long for Quinones to get comfortable in her new role. Galvan credited Quinones’s speed and high knowledge as a defender for helping her thrive on the offensive side of the ball.
“This year we really needed a forward, and we knew she had that speed and that drive. She was a little intimidated at the beginning, but two or three games in she really got the hang of it,” Galvan said. “Teams really had trouble stopping her because of her speed. She did amazing. It shows how much skill Maya has.”
Quinones was the co-offensive player of the year in 32-6A. She was aggressive and vocal, and enjoyed helping her teammates have success. Her highly successful sophomore campaign has Quinones excited for what’s to come as she and her teammates continue working and growing.
“I wouldn’t be here without my team. Being a part of this amazing team was just super cool, and we worked really hard together. I want to continue making history with this team,” Quinones said. “I thank God because He gave me the ability to do this. And, of course, my parents. They push me, they help me, my dad coaches me sometimes. And my team, Coach Galvan and my captains (Jaci Vargas, Rebeka Jimenez and Lauren Powell).”
Offensive Player of the Year
Sarah Garza, Harlingen South
Garza, a junior, was her team’s leading scorer, putting 30 goals in the net to help the Lady Hawks reach the playoffs.
Garza is the All-STAR offensive player of the year. But she was quick to give all credit for her individual success to her team.
“It means so much to me to be recognized. I’m just grateful for my whole team,” Garza said. “Without them I wouldn’t have done anything. I’m just a forward. It has to do with the mids giving me passes, the defense doing their job, so it’s really a team effort. They helped me get awarded so I owe a lot to them. I’m extremely, extremely grateful for the coaching from (our South coaching staff).”
Garza said the Lady Hawks played with a persistent, must-win attitude sparked by seniors Korynne Reininger and Sandra Lopez. Garza said she was inspired by the senior leaders and driven by a need to come through for South.
“I don’t know what I would’ve done without them and their passion. It fired me up, and I felt like I needed to score for them, I needed to score for my coach because he’s been out there for so long and he puts in trust in us. I didn’t want to let them down,” Garza said.
With a young team returning next season, Garza, an all-District 32-6A first-team honoree, feels confident and ready to lead after a strong junior campaign.
“This award gives me the encouragement to stand up and be the captain for the team,” Garza said. “I need to be that upperclassmen that takes initiative and pushes everyone, and that encourages me to come back stronger and ready to take on any team.”
Defensive Player of the Year
Marianna Cervin, La Feria
Cervin surprised herself with her impressive freshman season.
The District 32-4A defensive most valuable player worked hard, stayed focused and had an immediate impact on the Lionettes. Cervin is the All-STAR defensive player of the year.
“I was honestly surprised. I wasn’t really expecting it because I didn’t know about these awards,” Cervin said. “It just means that I know I have the strength and the mentality to accomplish great things, so in the next years I know I can do it.”
La Feria coach Jesus Echevarria called Cervin a quiet kid who lets her actions speak for her. He was pleasantly surprised with how “perfectly” she filled a hole at center defender.
“I expected good things from her, but I was very surprised with her level of play. She’s a really, really hard worker at practices and in the games as well. She led by example,” Echevarria said.
Cervin has been playing soccer since she was 3 years old and is confident in her abilities to protect and control the ball. She thanked her parents and her grandfather for encouraging her to play soccer and always pushing her to be better.
Cervin said she’s motivated by her big freshman year and ready to build on her confidence in years to come.
“This award basically means that I know I’m capable of doing the things that I didn’t think I was capable of. It gives me more strength. Each of us has the strength to accomplish our goals, and we can accomplish more things than we ever expected,” Cervin said.
Newcomer of the Year
Aliyah Fonseca, Harlingen South
Being new to the varsity scene didn’t stop Fonseca one bit. The Harlingen South freshman gained the trust and support of her teammates, and shined as a defender/midfielder. Fonseca’s versatility earned her the District 32-6A utility player of the year award. It also got her All-STAR newcomer of the year.
“To me it’s a huge deal because I worked really hard for this season, so it’s really exciting knowing it paid off,” Fonseca said. “I didn’t expect it. My team helped a lot. Amazing teammates, super supportive and everything. My coaches are amazing. My twin, (Alexis), she helps a lot, too, because anytime I got into any kind of trouble she’d yell at me from across the field.”
Fonseca said she was nervous and quiet during her first two or three varsity games, but she quickly gained confidence and trust from her teammates. As a smaller player, she said her speed was a big advantage on the back line.
Fonseca learned a lot in her rookie season and said she’s excited to build on her strong start to help the Lady Hawks be successful for years to come.
“I learned that you have to trust your team. You can’t second guess during the game. You have to just do it and learn from it. And I learned different moves and different styles of play, which helped a lot in situations,” Fonseca said. “It’s great to take advice from anyone who has something to say. Take it and use it because it’s very helpful. (This season was) a huge opportunity for me. I’m super excited about it, and I can’t wait for more years of this.”
Coach of the Year
Debra Galvan, Harlingen High
The Harlingen High Lady Cardinals won an undefeated District 32-6A championship this season and reached the second round of the playoffs.
It wasn’t an easy thing to do considering the talent in the district and the challenges of playing amid a pandemic. But Galvan, the Lady Cards’ fifth-year coach, navigated her team to its strongest season in several years. She is the All-STAR coach of the year.
“It always means a lot to be recognized for the work you put in. My assistants and I put in a lot of hours. Like I tell my girls, we don’t do it for the pay, we do it because we love the sport. I take my love for the sport, and put it into the coaching aspect,” Galvan said.
Galvan said this season felt different because of the team’s unmatched chemistry. She said the Lady Cardinals really knew each other on and off the field, and the fun environment fostered a new level of success Galvan was proud to bring to Harlingen High.
“This year the mentality was, you know what, we know what we want to do, we know our goals, but let’s also have some fun behind it. They were laughing at practices, we let them joke around and we’d joke around with them. I think that’s what made this group a little different,” Galvan said.
“I think the Cardinals hadn’t won district, yet alone gone undefeated, in over 10 years, so to finally get that program back again does mean a lot. I’m just so proud of the whole team. We won district not because of the coaching or because of one player, it was a true team effort all together.”