Off to a winning start, the first-ranked TJC Men’s Soccer Team is hoping to continue their streak into district and regional tournaments later this fall.

Twelve sophomores including six starters returned from last year’s team. Head Coach Steve Clements is confident they will provide the leadership and experience needed to help the 15 freshmen joining this year’s squad transition to the collegiate level.

“I expect my sophomores to collectively lead this team, helping the younger guys adjust and adapt to our style of play,” Clements said. “The first year is the hardest for these young players, especially for the players coming from overseas. It takes a while for them to adjust to the heat, way of life and our training at this level. About their sophomore year is when they really get settled in.”

The Apaches have a melting pot of players this season, coming from seven states, six different countries, three continents, as well as a local graduate from Robert E. Lee High School. Assistant Coach Chris Handy believes that the foreign players will have a big impact on this year’s team.

“Obviously they are a big influence as well as a positive one. They bring a lot of knowledge of the game over – that other players can learn from,” Handy said.

Coach Handy believes one of the biggest challenges for this year’s team is filling in the holes in the backfield after losing several defensive starters. He expects Juan Robles to be a fixture at goalie with Shaunovan Wilson and Donahue Malvo leading the back line.

In the midfield, sophomore Kareem Frietas will be the key in the middle with Harry Machacha, Andy Brooks and Cordero Young working the wings. Up front, Sophomores Kenny Mena and Robin Brown, are expected to be the main targets. But Handy also said to watch out for a few transfers and freshmen to get in the lineup and mix things up. Brenton Griffiths, Kyle Nicholls, Dom Dwyer, Angelo Jack and Dan Martens have all shown the ability to contribute to the team.

The Apaches have many expectations for this year. Just like every team before them, their goal is to be the best in the nation and win a national championship. But before those goals are achieved, Handy feels they still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do.

“We have to achieve other goals in order for us to get there. From a game-to-game point of view,” said Handy. “We always want to keep a shut out. We want to finish first in our region with the reward being the ability to host the region tourney, win the region tourney, then the district tourney and finally the national tourney.”

Coach Clements feels like the Region 14 competition seems to be stronger than ever with San Jacinto and Lon Morris both looking to have strong seasons but feels like the Apaches will be contenders.

The Apaches will take on Richland College Sept. 19 as well as Western Texas College on the Sept. 25.

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