By TONY EIERDAM
By appearance, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams 2014 soccer team looks young without a single senior on the roster.
But a closer inspection of the roster reveals that head coach John Tuggle and assistant coach Taylor Eggleston will welcome back several juniors and sophomores with more than one year of varsity experience.
The Lady Rams have reached the Class 4A playoffs (this is the final year that the UIL will place Class 3A schools in 4A districts) the past three years, but are still seeking their first-ever playoff win.
“Half of my returning players were starters last year, and at least I know where those kids stand and where they are supposed to be, position wise,” Tuggle said. “The rest of them I helped coach in the spring when they were eighth graders. I know the potential of most of them.”
The Lady Rams lost a lot of scorers to graduation last year.
One forward who the Lady Rams will look to score this season is junior Bre Hinojos, who earned an all-district, honorable mention last year, and sophomore Caroline Clarke. Also returning up front is last year’s Newcomer of the Year in the district, sophomore Kylie Williams.
Also playing up front will be junior Jasmine Rojo.
“Bre and Caroline will be who we count on up front to score,” Tuggle said. “Kylie also should be putting some balls in the back of the net.
“(Junior) Mollie Martinez will have to play both defense and offense, and she is also another who can get the ball to the goal.
“I also expect (junior midfielder) Kaleigh (Aaron) to help with her corner kicks.”
The Lady Rams also return junior defender Mason Malone, the only returning Lady Ram who earned all-district, first-team honors in 2013, and sophomore starter Erin McGuire. Also playing defense will be freshmen Tally Goldston, Peyton Malone, Stormie Mayo, and sophomore Desiree Bell.
“We return Mason and Erin, and they are both very good defenders,” Tuggle said. “I feel our defense will come along with Desiree and Mollie Martinez, when we have Mollie back there.
“Stormie and Peyton will also see time as starters back there.
“I also have Kylie Burke, a freshman who can play back or midfield. She is very tall and athletic and will help us now and in the future.”
Besides Aaron and Burke in the midfield, also playing the position will be freshman Sami Hickey, sophomore starter Alana Holly and juniors Grace Baeza and Gabi Lazo, the latter who will start.
Kylie and Gabi will be counted on in the middle,” Tuggle said. “Gabi has had some injuries the past couple of years but she is ready to go this year.
“I know what Kylie can do, but Gabi is going to have to step up and take control this year. Gabi has good ball skills and will be more of an offensive-style center mid, and Kylie will be playing with a more defensive type of style.”
Tuggle will not have to worry about his goalkeeper as sophomore Brittany Smith, an all-district, honorable mention performer from last year, returns in net.
“It is always nice to have your goalie return,” Tuggle said. “Brittany is young, but she is a solid goalkeeper.”
The Lady Rams reached a milestone when they scored a goal in a playoff game last year for the first time in school history. Tuggle hopes the Lady Rams do more than just qualify for postseason play this season.
“The goal is to reach the playoffs again,” Tuggle said. “We just don’t want to qualify for the playoffs, we want to compete when we get there.”