ALL-ET: JT duo Co-Newcomers of the Year

John Tyler freshmen Esperanza Zavaleta (left) and Yelsi Rosales are Co-Newcomers of the Year on the All-East Texas girls soccer team. (Herb Nygren Jr. | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

John Tyler’s 2012 soccer season proved to be a breath of fresh air.

The Lady Lions qualified for the postseason for just the second time in the 21st century, and the freshman tandem of Yelsi Rosales and Esperanza Zavaleta played a big part in the success.

For their contributions, Rosales and Zavaleta share the award for Newcomer of the Year on the Tyler Morning Telegraph All-East Texas girls soccer team.

The duo split the same honor on the District 31-4A soccer team.

“Both started every game for us,” JT coach Paul Frye said. “They’re tough, they’re smart.

“They’re highly-skilled, fast and strong.”

Frye felt both deserved the honor, Rosales for anchoring the back end and playing through injury, and Zavaleta for leading the team in scoring.

“They complement our team,” Frye said. “They’re way above being freshmen.”

Sharing the award added to an ever-growing connection between former rivals-turned good friends.

“I wouldn’t say we were the best of friends,” said Rosales, who played on a different team as Zavaleta in middle school. “We pretty much didn’t like each other.”

That all changed with the donning of the blue and white.

“I’ve been knowing her for a while,” Zavaleta said. “We got to high school and we both ended up on varsity and ended up getting really close. On the field we may get mad at each other, but off the field we’re more like sisters.”

JT won 13 matches on the season and ended an 11-year playoff drought.

“We’re really proud of ourselves, that we got together and made it to the playoffs,” said Zavaleta, a center midfielder, who scored 15 goals. “We worked as a team and a family. We all knew what we were striving for.”

The closeness of the team allowed the freshman to make immediate contributions.

“We came in strong and confident, knowing the team would adjust to the way we played,” said Rosales, who started in center midfield before moving to sweeper. “The fact we were new, we wanted it even more. We just played our game. It was a really good season.”

After a full season as teammates, Rosales regards Zavaleta as family.

“It’s not a friendship bond; it’s a sister bond,” said Rosales, who plans to visit her father, former JT soccer player Sostnes Rosales, in Mexico this summer, and work with him on improving her skills. “We can do anything together. I’m so comfortable with her. I hadn’t known her long, but it’s like I’ve known her my whole life.”

Over the next three seasons, the two hope to take the Lady Lions’ program to another level.

“Our goal for this year was to make the playoffs and we did it,” said Zavaleta, who thanked Frye for all his efforts. “Our goal next year is to be district champions. I believe our team can do it.”

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