The quiet residential neighborhoods near Curtis Carroll Fieldhouse have come alive to the sounds of NJCAA soccer for the first time this week as Jacksonville College's inaugural futbol clubs have been grinding through their respective two-a-days at the Bill McRae Soccer Complex.
Jaguar and Lady Jaguar soccer teams are the newest members of NJCAA Region XIV, which also includes Tyler Junior College, Navarro College, Northeast Texas Community College, Paris Junior College, Coastal Bend Community College and San Jacinto.
Coastal Bend and San Jacinto only sponsor men's teams and Navarro fields just a ladies' squad.
Jag/Lady Jag mentor Rafael Gonzalez welcomed right at 25 men when drills opened on Monday.
“About 25 guys is what I expected from our initial list of 30,” he said. “I have a good set of guys and the guys that I really wanted are all here, so we should have a real solid team.
The morning practices have been focused entirely on conditioning, while the evening sessions are a mix of conditioning and ball drills.
Gonzalez said that he was somewhat pleased with the shape that the Jags returned in.
“I think our guys as a whole came back in a little bit better shape the then women did,” Gonzalez said. “Some of our girls struggled early in the week with their fitness and endurance, but they began to pick the pace up in mid week and I think that things are positive now.”
A couple of dozen young ladies have reported and will have the distinction of being members of the school's first soccer club.
“We have a good overall number, and we only lost one key player that had committed to be here, so that's pretty good,” Gonzalez said.
Despite the fact that the members of each JC soccer unit will be forced to learn each other fast, Gonzalez said at this point the Jags and Lady Jags are striving for one common outcome.
“Even though we are a new team our goal is one and that is to work hard each day and to qualify for the national tournament,” he said. “That will always be our goal here.”
JC will get the new season under way on Aug. 17 by traveling to Marshall for a doubleheader against East Texas Baptist University. The twin bill is scheduled to get under way at 6 p.m.
The ladies will play in Jacksonville for the first time at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22 when they entertain Cedar Valley.
The Jags will open the home portion of their schedule 6 p.m. on Aug. 31 by hosting Richland College.