MINERAL WELLS —
By TONY EIERDAM
With eight seniors on the roster – including all-district, first-team selections from last year in midfielder Miriam Garcia and defender Jessica Baeza – the 2013 Mineral Wells Lady Rams soccer team will have a nice mix of upperclassmen and a talented freshman class as they try to qualify for the playoffs for an unprecedented third year in a row.
John Tuggle, entering his 10th season as head coach, will also welcome back the District 12-4A Newcomer of the Year last season, sophomore Bre Hinojos, as well as second-team, all-district performer Emily Clingings.
Also, team leader Mollie Clarke, a forward and the only four-year starter but who was plagued with injuries last season, returns to lead the Lady Rams not only offensively, but spiritually as well.
The Lady Rams have not gotten past the first round in the last two years, and Tuggle is hoping his unique blend of experience and youth can take the team over the hump.
But the Lady Rams will have to find a replacement for last year’s all-district, first-team goalkeeper Jennifer Carrizales, who was a consistent element in front of the net for three consecutive years.
But the new goalkeeper will also have the steady midfield play of Garcia and Bailey Thomas in front of her, and Tuggle feels his defense is one of many strengths.
The defense will be led by Baeza and Clingings.
“We expect to make the playoffs this year,” Tuggle said. “With having Miriam and Bailey back in the middle – and we put them in the middle last year before district play began – we have two players who can control the game.
“I think our defense is more solid this year with a change in our defensive formation. In the past, we used the sweeper-stopper system, but this year we are changing to a flat-back four defense.
“The kids have got our defensive concept down, and although we are still a little bit rusty, the girls understand what we are trying to teach them.