By Moses Leos III
A new era of soccer has arrived at the doorstep of the Hays Rebel and Lehman Lobos boys and girls soccer teams.
After success in 49-4A, Hays and Lehman now prepare to play in district 14-6A.
All four teams face stout competition at the next level. On the boys’ side, the Rebels and Lobos will go up against district champion Del Valle, while Lady Rebels and Lady Lobos will try to upend Westlake, which ran the table in what was 15-5A last year.
Hays boys soccer
Hays boys soccer coach Jason Burnett, who led the Rebels to a 49-4A district title last season, believes his team can compete in its new district.
“We are just going to take each game one at a time,” Burnett said in an emailed respoinse. “We are the guys that moved up so we are the underdog in each match. However, these guys love that.”
Returning from last year’s team will be 49-4A district MVP John Hinnenkamp and goalkeeper of the year Will Cooper. Nick Perry and Nick Thies will also return, both of whom were selected to the 49-4A all-district team a year previous.
But one challenge the Rebels will face is a brief non-district schedule. Hays opens with Wimberley on Jan. 6, followed by the Rebel Cup on Jan. 8-10, before hitting district play with Lake Travis on Jan. 13.
So far, practices have been “very focused of late,” with the Rebels focusing on possession based games and ball movement drills.
It hearkens to Burnett’s philosophy that speed and strength alone don’t always equal success.
“You can have all the speed and size you want in soccer, but if you can’t move and control the ball, then you are not going to win many games,” Burnett said.
Hays girls soccer
The Hays Lady Rebels will be attempting to claim a second straight district championship in a new surrounding.
While the team will be a newcomer in an established district, Lady Rebel head coach Brent Holcomb said his team is prepared for the challenge.
“Honestly, it’s a chance to grow,” Holcomb said. “We are going to be challenged in different ways. We are ready for that.”
Senior Mila Bustos, who was named 49-4A Offensive Player of the Year last season, will lead the Rebel attack. Joining Bustos will be six other seniors, who include 49-4A first teamer Kat Salmeron, and second team selection Victoria Ratliff.
But a major change will be the schedule, which will see Hays play all but two teams – Westlake and Anderson – twice during the season.
Holcomb said the key to success will be to hold on to “the good things from last year” and “put it in our pockets.” However, he also said there is room to grow.
“It’s going to be a new speed of play; a whole new set of teams who are going to come after us aggressively,” Holcomb said. “That’s good for us. I think we are ready to get in there.”
Lehman boys soccer
A changing of the guard is underway for the Lehman boys soccer team, who enters 2015 without longtime head coach Jay Sansom. Last June saw Sansom leave for New Braunfels Canyon after 12 years as a soccer coach within Hays CISD.
Brad Baker, who was an assistant in 2013, will take over as the second head coach in program history.
Baker helms a team that finished third in 49-4A last season, but will be tasked with filling key vacancies from last season. Gone are Chris Piedra and Albert Percastegui on defense, while the offense will attempt to fill the voids left by Fabian Mantilla and Michael Diers.
Despite some turnover, the Lobos will be led by junior forward Diego Garcia and senior Rene Torres, who was selected first team all district last season. Joining the two will be senior Coco Balderas and Ever Campuzano.
Lehman girls soccer
Change will be the theme for the Lehman Lady Lobos soccer team in 2015.
And while head coach Nauri Garcia returns to lead the Lady Lobos, he’ll have to fill the void left by Max Soto, Mariah Tamayo and several other key players from a year ago.
Under the guidance of last year’s seniors, Lehman finished second in 49-4A, which marked the best district finish in program history.
But as the Lady Lobos look toward 14-6A, they’ll return with some experience.
Leading the way will be senior Pressley Bailey and Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez was selected to the 49-4A all-district first team a year ago. Joining them will be Riley Blok, also a first team all-district selection last year, and second team selections Pamela Lasprilla and Brittany Avona.