As Rolondo Borjon enters his 10th year coaching soccer at Mineral Wells High School, he is presented with yet another pair of puzzles that are missing their pieces, including the Lady Rams returning only two starters from last year’s squad.

While he may not have as many pieces to put back together for this year’s Rams soccer team, it is still going to be just as hard figuring out, “how the shoe fits.”

For a coach pulling the double-duty of coaching both the Rams and Lady Rams soccer teams, it’s hard not to daydream sometimes about how nice it would be if you could meld different players together to get what you want.

Recent changes by the University Interscholastic League have players hitting the pitch earlier than ever this season as the Rams take part in the Boswell tournament Jan. 2-4 and the Lady Rams host San Angelo Lake View Jan. 7 at 5 p.m.

Before 2019 ends, both teams will also have a pair of scrimmages under their belts as the UIL moves to narrow the gap between semesters and get games underway.

That means suiting up in colder weather for players and faster decision-making for Borjon but since that’s what’s he’s preaching to Lady Rams soccer team, he will need to lead by example.

“We need to play fast! We are not as tall as we have been in years past, and that will hurt us a little on corner kicks and headers but we do have some speed,” Borjon said. “I want the girls to plays faster as a team in a sense I want them to communicate, think faster and anticipate their next move.”

Mineral Wells has to play fast if it wants to keep up with district rival Stephenville. The Honeybees have won two of the last three state championships and are on the slate for three league games against the Lady Rams. Stephenville didn’t lose a game last year and opened this season with a 13-0 scrimmage drubbing of Lorena.

Many coaches might see playing Stephenville as an excellent way to get three losses tacked on your record but for Borjon, it’s an opportunity for his team to improve and excel. 

“I don’t sugarcoat playing a team like Stephenville because all you are doing is hurting your players,” Borjon. “You have to be honest and get your players to understand the process, and it’s a long process.”

What Borjon is looking for is improvement against top-notch teams like the Honeybees with the idea playing Stephenville makes his team better. Coaching and working towards that kind of goal means playing the Honeybees offers three opportunities to get better.

Borjon’s “long process” in getting this year’s soccer teams together promises to be even longer this season and he admits it may be midseason before he is done tinkering around with his lineups.

Pulling double-duty is never easy for any coach, and when it comes to overseeing boys and girls teams, surely it must become more of a challenge?

“I love it from the standpoint that it lets me try so many different schemes and ideas with both teams,” Borjon said. “What might work one way may work a little different than the other.”

Trying new things might include switching players around in the lineup and moving an offensive player into a defender’s role or vice-versa. Both Rams and Lady Rams have huge problems when it comes to plugging holes at the significant roles of goalkeeper and striker.

For the Lady Rams, it’s all about replacing three-time all-state goalkeeper Reagan Carter who is graduating early and taking her talents to the next level at Eastern New Mexico.

“We have been so blessed to have a player like Regan for the three years that she was here, and it’s, of course, disappointing athletically to see her leave,” Borjon said. “As a teacher, you are just proud of her accomplishments and the mindset she has for herself to achieve bigger and better things.”

There are two candidates to fill that goal with neither having varsity experience but they have displayed what Borjon wants.

“A player has to show that they want that responsibility of being a goalkeeper,” Borjon said. “About four years ago with the boys, I tried to ‘make’ a goalkeeper and we ended up using four different players.”

None of those players wanted to be in the goal and Borjon knows it takes a particular player who also quarterbacks the team when trying to take advantage of an opponent’s defensive lapses.

For the time being, Borjon will take advantage of the first half of the season to take his time and working toward shaping his teams while mentally and physically preparing them.

He has a history of being able to build a team over the season and three years ago after losing three times to district champion Wylie by a 14-2 goal differential beat the Lady Bulldogs in the playoffs. It was a 1-0 victory where Wylie took 32 shots, and Mineral Wells took one boot and it won the game.

When it comes to finding the right mix for the Rams, there is no bigger worry than replacing striker Martin Renteria who is recovering from a knee injury. The junior had 17 goals last year and set the school record with 22 scores in his freshman season. If Renteria does play this season, it would be late and maybe not at all.

“Finding someone to step in and take on that leadership role is going to be key to our success this year,” Borjon said. “That’s not the only position we have to fill, but it’s a significant one.”

The Rams were district champions last season and won a co-championship the year before. Stephenville appears to be a likely contender to try and unseat Mineral Wells as the league’s top team.

The Lady Rams open Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. against SA Lakeview.

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