Having graduated four seniors, three of which went on to play at the collegiate level, last spring, one may believe that Jacksonville head girls soccer coach Colten McCown is a bit anxious regarding his roster, as the Fightin' Maidens continue to prepare for the 2020 campaign.
McCown acknowledged that the aforementioned quartet will be missed, but he believes there are other girls that are chomping at the bit to step into the spotlight and carry on the winning tradition.
“You don't just go out and replace the caliber of players that we lost to graduation,” McCown said during a recent practice session at Howard Cook Field. “But as I have said, I thought we had 14 girls who could have started at anytime last year; they were just that talented, so I think we will have plenty of experience to work with as we replace the girls that we lost.
“I really don't think we will be reloading as much as some people think we will be.”
Jacksonville finished 24-3-3 in 2019 and went three rounds deep in the state playoffs before being stopped by Mount Pleasant, 2-1.
McCown said fans should expect the Maidens' mode of operation to be slightly different this season and to be designed around the strengths of this year's players.
“We will do some things different to conform to our personnel,” he said. “We have some quality returning, so I am optimistic at this point.
“I am expecting Taylor Gutierrez (soph. forward) to have a big year and we are moving Michelle (Medellin) over to the left side, where I think she will be better suited.”
Medellin, is also a sophomore forward.
McCown said that he expects senior Priscilla Gallegos to play practically every minute of every match.
“Not only is Priscilla a good defender, but we can play her at striker or forward, too and she will do a great job there,” McCown said.
Overall McCown said that the Maidens would not rely on any one individual to generate most of the points; instead he plans on utilizing several young ladies to put the ball into the back of the net.
Another one of the Maidens' strengths is at the goalkeeper position.
“We are fortunate to have senior Kelsy Traylor and junior Lesly Munoz coming back at keeper,” McCown said.
The Maidens always seem like they have two or three freshmen that are ready to contribute at the varsity level, and this season is no exception.
“Our freshmen to watch this season should be Andrea Escareno and Aly Toledo,” McCown said.
Among the other players to keep any eye on are seniors Amy Moreyra, Delanie Crawford, Marleni Medellin, Brandi Diaz, Karla Yanez and Lizbeth Escareno.
As for the teams to watch for in District 16-5A, McCown believes that Hallsville, Jacksonville and Whitehouse look to have the best chance at winning a district title.
“All three of us have some key losses from last year, so we will just have to wait and see how that works out for everyone,” he said. “It is a tough district. There are some other teams that have a lot of talent and are capable of stepping up, no question.”
Jacksonville will open the season on Jan. 2, 2020 with two matches.
At 8:30 a.m. the Maidens will play Bryan Rudder, and at 1 p.m. Chapel Hill will oppose Jacksonville. Both of those matches will be a part of the Palestine Tournament.
Jacksonville's first home match is scheduled for Jan. 14 and will be against Brownsboro.
Conference play is scheduled to open up on Jan. 31 when the Maidens trek to Longview to battle Pine Tree.