FORT WORTH, Texas – It seems only fitting that Amy Burr scored on a night that was summed up as “Brrrr” to kick off the National Elite Prep Showcase.
Burr, a junior, scored the second goal as Plano West (Texas) played to a 2-2 draw with SIMA FAB 50 No. 26 Harvard-Westlake (Calif.). The game time temperature was 36, but the wind chill put it at 26, according to weather.com. By the time the late matches kicked off, the temperature was near 32 with the wind chill knocking that down to the low 20s.
Despite the frigid temperature, all 18 matches were played Thursday, the first official day of play for the Texas UIL programs. With temperatures dropping even lower Friday, nine of the scheduled 18 matches will be played indoors at the Sam Baugh Indoor Facility on the Texas Christian University campus. Originally there were 31 matches slated for Friday, and 12 have been canceled.
NEPS features 12 teams in the SIMA FAB 50, and it was good news for most of them in first-round play Thursday. No. 1 Marcus (Texas), No. 2 Southlake Carroll (Texas), No. 3 Carondelet, No. 4 Liberty (Calif.), No. 12 Byron Nelson (Texas), No. 17 Coppell (Texas), No. 24 Santa Margarita (Calif.) and No. 29 Hendrickson (Texas) were victorious. One team tied and one of the three that lost did so to another nationally ranked team.
THURSDAY’S TOP STORYLINES
* Clean Sweep: The SIMA FAB 50 Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 teams all won, three of them in dominating fashion. The victories sets up Friday’s cashes between No. 2 Southlake Carroll and No. 3 Carondelet, later followed by No. 4 Marcus vs. No. 4 Liberty.
* California Power: Six California teams are competing at NEPS this year, and they combined for a 4-1-1 record. Perhaps even more impressive was the combined 19-6 scoring margin over their Texas opponents, highlighted by Santa Margarita’s (Calif.) 11-0 victory over Paschal (Texas).
* Better Showing: Vandegrift (Texas) entered the 2016 NEPS with lofty expectations, then went 0-4 playing the larger schools from the most talent-heavy area of Dallas/Fort Worth. This year, Alaina La Place’s perfectly placed header in the right corner of the goal gave Vandergrift a 1-0 win over SIMA FAB 50 No. 32 Nolan Catholic (Texas). "Redemption for last year," Vandergrift coach Jen Hardy said. "We came here and didn't look good on paper (the results). This win was a confidence builder, we're back and we're ready and feeling good."
* Braving the Weather: Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) freshman Lauren Elson scored the game-tying goal in the brutally cold weather, but was quick to shrug off the freezing temperatures. Unlike many of her California native teammates, Elson grew up in North Carolina. When asked if Thursday was the coldest match in which she has been involved, she quickly shot down that idea, saying "I remember playing a game in the snow." Well, since Friday's forecast is for weather colder than Thursday, flurries might be possible.
(NEPS is played out at eight locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, making it impossible for staff to be present at every match. The Top Performers list is compiled from staff observations and information provided by TDS contributors.)
MVP of the Day: Taylor Moon, Marcus (Texas), Jr., F. The Baylor commit was a NEPS all-tournament selection last year and made a strong push for event MVP this year with her Day 1 performance. Moon scored five goals, which is the largest single-match effort at NEPS in memory.
Best of the Rest
Ansley Bunger, Byron Nelson (Texas), Sr., F: Bunger, an Arkansas commit, is simply productive. For the second straight year, she is lighting up the scoreboard at NEPS. Bunger had a goal and two assists in the team’s Thursday win.
Andrea Cardenas, Byron P. Steele (Texas), Sr., MF: Cardenas and freshman Gisselle Kozarski connected for the first three goals in Steele’s victory. Cardenas scored the first two and assisted the third.
Paige Howard, Harvard-Westlake (Calif.), Sr., MF. The Penn commit was the most consistent player on the field for Harvard-Westlake, and frequently served up quality passes that helped spring her teammates for scoring chances.
Baylee Hux, Coppell (Texas), Sr., F: An uncommitted senior, Hux was a dangerous part of Coppell’s game, making runs to get behind the defense, then checking back on defense, as well. She was constantly working.
Gisselle Kozarski, Byron P. Steele (Texas), Fr., MF: Kozarski, who pays for Lonestar’s ECNL team, made her varsity debut Thursday with a goal and two assists.
Jocie Lackey, [Vandergrift tx-w] (Texas), Sr., MF/D. A defender who moved into holding mid, Lackey helped Vandergrift in the transition game.
Kate Luby, Plano West (Texas), Jr., F: The uncommitted junior scored Plano West’s first goal and was very crafty on the ball.
Mia Roth, Santa Margarita (Calif.), Jr., F: In only a half of play, Roth scored three goals in what was her Santa Margarita debut. Roth, a transfer to Santa Margarita, was on the team for December in order to honor club commitments. Roth is one of six players returning to Santa Margarita now that the club season is on break.
Jacqueline Stacy, Plano West (Texas), Jr., D/MF: Plays center back and holding mid. She’s a tough defender and helped Plano West get forward in the second half, when it scored both of its goals. Stacy has committed to Oklahoma.