PARRY: Kuehn, Urieta, Saucedo the most recent Tyler Lee grads to achieve even more in college

Published on Sunday, 3 December 2017 02:07 - Written by Chris Parry, cparry@tylerpaper.com

I began working for the Tyler Morning Telegraph in May 2004 as Tyler Lee’s beat writer. Nearly 14 years later, I am still following successes, failures, triumphs and tribulations of the Red Raiders and Lady Raiders.

One thing I always enjoy is when those same athletes achieve greatness at the next level. Lee offensive lineman Ciron Black, a 2005 graduate who helped REL win its first state title in football, helped LSU win a BCS Championship in 2008. That team was quarterbacked by another Red Raider graduate (one I didn’t have the pleasure of covering in high school), Matt Flynn, who later went on to win a Super Bowl with Green Bay. Some others quickly off the top of my head: Jacob Kirkpatrick, a 2006 Lee grad and center who helped TCU upset Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl; Brett Pirtle, a 2010 graduate, who led Mississippi State to the 2013 College World Series; and Daniel Bogue, a 2015 graduate, helping Tyler Junior College win a third straight national title in baseball this past summer.

I am sure there are many more I have forgotten, and I apologize to those who I left out.

But speaking of TJC, that brings us to the present and three more Lee grads who can now call themselves national champs - Adai Urieta, Anna Joy Kuehn and Sergio Saucedo.

Adai helped Lee snap a postseason drought her junior year in 2015 and was part of the Lady Raiders returning to the playoffs in 2016. One of Urieta’s teammates was junior defender Anna Joy Kuehn.

Urieta continued her soccer career as a freshman at TJC, with Kuehn, now a senior captain for Lee, leading a defense that helped REL grab its first playoff win in six years, with a shutout over Lufkin.

Now it was Kuehn’s turn to decide if she wanted to continue her soccer career in college. Urieta decided to give her former teammate a little push.

“She had come to visit and asked if I liked it,” Urieta recalled. “I said if you want to keep playing soccer, you should come here.”

Added Kuehn, ‘It was crazy because I really decided to go to TJC at the last minute. I am really glad I did it.”

Both players were reserve defenders for the juggernaut Apache Ladies, who finished the regular season 16-1 and avenged their only loss in the Region XIV Championship, defeating Navarro College 1-0.

Around that time, Urieta and Kuehn began a tradition of sorts. They took a picture together holding the trophy.

“We always take pictures after we won big games,” Urieta said. “(Anna Joy) and I would be like, ‘Wow, we come from Lee and now are doing big things at the college in Tyler.’”

More pictures followed.

TJC won the district championship and kept on winning in the NJCAA tournament.

Finally, on Nov. 18 in Melbourne, Florida, the Apache Ladies were facing ASA Brooklyn (N.Y.) in the NJCAA title game. TJC had fallen in the title game during Urieta’s freshman year, but with under four minutes to play in regulation of a scoreless game, Claire Ramet scored on a free kick to give TJC a 1-0 lead.

“After we scored the goal, everyone was so excited,” Kuehn said.

Urieta said the final minutes took forever.

“It was scary. One (Ramet) scored, the other team got a free kick, so we were all nervous. It was the longest three minutes.”

Said Kuehn, “Our goalie, Andrea Neves, made a really close and amazing save. When (the game ended) everyone was so excited and crying and passionate about it, and that made it even more fun.”

Added Urieta, “I was just happy that we won and it’s a very good experience and something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The teammates did not forget the picture with this one forwarded to Lee coach Chris Woodard showing the two high school and now collegiate teammates holding a national championship trophy.

A few hours later in Prescott, Arizona, another Red Raider was enjoying his first national title.

Saucedo was Lee’s leading goal scorer last spring as the Red Raiders overcame a slow start to qualify for the playoffs after a year hiatus. He then decided to stay close to home and join reigning national champion TJC men’s soccer.

“Since my freshman year (at Lee), I have always wanted to play for TJC,” Saucedo said.

As a reserve left wing, Saucedo saw limited playing time, but that did not limit his joy about what he and his teammates were accomplishing.

TJC survived a scare from Laredo to win the South District title in overtime. More drama was to follow in the NJCAA tournament. TJC needed an overtime winner to get past Indian Hills (Iowa) 2-1 and followed that up with an even more dramatic result in the national semifinals against host Yavapai to win 3-2 in overtime.

In the championship, TJC decided to be a little more traditional with two second-half goals netting the Apaches another national title.

“I played in the semifinal, but not the final,” Saucedo said. “I had a lot of friends from home streaming the match. It’s special because I am the only local guy on the team. To be a part of the national championship team and getting congrats from all of my friends from Tyler is really special.”

Saucedo and Kuehn will be back to defend their titles with TJC as sophomores while Urieta plans on attending UT Austin, satisfied with her soccer career.

TWITTER: @CParryETFS