Jacksonville Daily Progress
With 25-30 young ladies prepared to comprise the first women's soccer team in the history of Jacksonville College next month, the team's head coach, Rafael Gonzalez, may not know at this time what attributes each player will be bringing with them to Jacksonville.
Some will probably thrive at a high level, while others may need a little more seasoning and collegiate experience to fully develop.
There are at least two Lady Jaguars, sophomore Halie Mathis who calls the Mabank area home and freshman Katie West, who prepped at Athens Christian School, that Gonzalez knows what he's getting for the most part.
Mathis who plays the all-important position of sweeper, starred at Lon Morris College, where Gonzalez served as head coach, prior to the school having been shutter for financial difficulties.
Starred? Yes. Mathis earned All-Region recognition for her work on the pitch at LMC.
Mathis said that she believes that the Lady Jags will be able to hold their own this season in the tough Region XIV.
"I'm excited to be here and to be able to finish my final year of junior college soccer," Mathis said. "I think we will have a better team than many people may think. Coach (Gonzalez) is a good coach and we will be ready."
Mathis went on to say that she believes if the team can come together as one during fall practices in early August that things will run much more smoothly.
"If we can bond together through some team building activities early, I think that that will enable us to avoid any potential conflicts and be able to play together as a unit, even though we are a first year team," Mathis added.
As for West, Gonzalez said that his brother first alerted him to West's abilities and from that point he invited her in for an open tryout and the rest is history as West easily earned a spot on the team based on her tryout.
"Katie is a really good player that is aggressive and strong," Gonzalez said. Gonzalez told the following story that allowed him to make up his mind on West.
"The way I picked her out was I was told she played rough," he said. "A lot of kids lay rough but they don't know how to actually play; Katie can play and play rough and that is important at the college level.
"I had the women that tried out that day scrimmage some of our men. We had one of the guys trying to gap the ball and Katie came in out of no where and took him out and then got right back up and took possession of the ball. If she can do that to a guy, imagine what she can do against a girl."
West, who has played six years of club soccer with the East Texas Spirit and the Sting, laughed off what happened during the open tryout and defined her soccer mindset in this fashion.
"I'm bigger (taller) than most girls so I don't get intimidated easily," she said. "Coming from a club (soccer) background you have to be aggressive, or you don't play."
West, who said her best position is "the one coach needs me to play", said that she realizes the uniqueness of being on JC's first women's soccer team and that she takes the responsibility that comes along with that seriously.
"It's pretty cool to be playing on a team that is founding the program," West said. "You get to decide which way things go and have a say in that in a founding program and how things are established will be based on performance and I want this program to have a rock-solid foundation."
Lady Jaguar soccer will play its first match on August 17 when the Lady Jaguars visit East Texas Baptist University in Marshall for a 6 p.m. match.
The JC women's first match at Bill McRae Field is slated to take place at 6 p.m. on August 22 against Cedar Valley.
The ladies will open Region XIV play at 2 p.m. on September 20 when they take on Northeast Texas in Mount Pleasant.