Following a soccer season where both the boys’ and girls’ teams clinched a playoff berth, each squad will be looking for similar results this year with reloaded rosters ready to go.
Practices officially opened across the state earlier this week and thanks to a new ruling, scrimmages are eligible to be scheduled 10 days after the Dec. 2 opening to get the ball rolling.
The Tigers and head coach Juan Perez will be taking advantage of that with a road trip to Bay City before playing host to Navasota on Dec. 17 ahead of a regular season-opening tournament in Madisonville starting Jan. 2.
Perez graduated only three starters from last year’s team that went further in the playoffs than Sealy had seen in the past two decades and is already excited about some of his new prospects.
“We’ll have a few new guys from ninth grade up on the varsity because there aren’t a lot from 10th and 11th grade but I have a lot of hope for those young guys, I think they can score and that’s something we always need,” the head coach said following the first practice of the season Monday morning. “We split into three teams and scrimmaged each other; one with the returning guys, one of the 10th and 11th graders and then one with the freshmen and they all played pretty good, it’s just a matter of them learning the way we play.”
The coach looks forward to getting plenty of looks at what his 2019-2020 roster will look like although he won’t be as concerned with how the scoreboard looks at the final whistle.
“In the scrimmages, all of the athletes just need the playing time to get their legs back, we’ll be looking for three or four really good players but we don’t care about the score or winning, we’re just looking at the guys we have and analyzing them,” Perez said.
Ricky Avila, Mario Arriaga, David Dominguez, Erick Balderas and his brother Jesus were all players the coach cited as those who will look to put up sizeable contributions once again this year with one additional improvement on top of that.
“I'm expecting the new guys to come in and contribute right away, we just need to supply the defense on the back end as well,” Perez said.
Adrian Rocha is in a little bit different of a situation with his Lady Tiger squad who clinched a trip to the postseason but fell in the final minutes to a Brazosport Exporters team that they will see in their first action of the regular season on Jan. 2 in a tournament at Waller High School.
“That should be fun, something to look forward to,” the head coach said of the bi-district rematch. “We played them really close and the girls will surely be looking to redeem themselves, but every year is different everyone has different strengths and weaknesses so I'm excited to get going.”
His roster will have a little different feel to it as well following the graduation of some key players but for a second year in a row, he won’t have a junior varsity roster to fill so with around 25 girls on the varsity bench, there will likely be plenty of athletes who will be seeing playing time this year.
“A lot of girls but I’ll be able to use more of the bench with one big team and see a lot of different players earn their time,” Rocha said. “This year, I've got a big junior group and a lot of them played big for us last year, Dania Picasso, Daniella Acosta, Coral Becerra and Valerie Villagomez are all returning as well as sophomores Destinee Castillo, Kenna Killough and Jenna Forrester.”
With that contingent of experience, Rocha will look to build upon that with a not-so-easy pre-district schedule which he says was put together that way on purpose.
“The preseason will be a steppingstone and it’ll be tough but I planned it that way. It will prepare us for district play which, in my eyes, is the most important time because that determines the playoffs,” Rocha said. “Some coaches put together an easy pre-district schedule to possibly build morale with a lot of wins but then they don’t win in district. So we’re starting out tough and will figure out how to get better each time and be ready to go when district comes around.”
Then of course, with all the puzzle pieces in the right spot, he hopes to extend a tradition even he saw from his time as a student in Royal ISD.
“My goal is always to make playoffs and even when I was in high school, we played Sealy and we always knew they were going to play hard because they always had good teams so I want to keep that tradition going,” Rocha closed.