Leadership within the Texas College soccer program passed to familiar hands, ones who hope to steer the ship in a similar direction.
Karl Iracheta, an assistant the past four years, takes over both the men and women’s programs when the two clubs open their season today at the Spring Hill Tournament in Mobile, Ala.
Iracheta played one season at TC in 2006 under former coach Demetrio Hernandez, who started the program the previous year. Hernandez left TC for Wiley during the summer.
The Steers qualified for the postseason all six seasons under Hernandez, winning the Red River Athletic Conference title in 2006 with Iracheta in the lineup.
“There’s a lot of new expectations for the boys and girls’ teams,” Iracheta said. “We don’t have a lot of returning players. We’ve almost had to start from scratch with a lot of new players. It’s been tough because I got the job almost in July then had a month to put it back up. Hopefully we do a good job.”
Expect to see a similar TC team as previous editions.
“Fifty percent will be the same,” Iracheta estimated. “Just maybe tactically and some other aspects will change. The model structure will be the same.”
Also expect the goals to remain high – on the field and in the standings.
A total of 17 freshmen and sophomores constitute the Steers’ 23-man roster. Eight key players return: Vincente Guerra, a sophomore defender from Mission (1 goal, 1 assist); Mario Lopez, a junior goalkeeper from Spring (31 saves); Juan Montes, a sophomore forward from LaJoya (4 goals, 2 assists); Rigoberto Obregon, a junior midfielder from Weslaco (2 goals); Mauro Tijerina, a senior forward from Donna (3 goals); Juan Trevino, a sophomore defender from Donna (15 starts); Alfredo Troncoso, a junior midfielder from Brownsville (1 goal, 1 assists); and Carlos Vasquez, a sophomore midfielder from Edinburg (16 starts: 1 goal).
TC finished 7-8-2 overall and 5-4 in conference, reaching the RRAC semifinals before losing 1-0 to eventual champion UT Brownsville.
“The expectations are always high,” added Iracheta, a native of Brownsville. “The men have never missed the playoffs. That's our No. 1 expectation, to make the playoffs and our objective is to be in the championship game of the conference.”
The Lady Steers finished 4-8-1 (2-6-1 in RRAC) last year. The failed to go .500 in conference for the third consecutive year.
Unlike the men’s team, returnees dominate the Lady Steers’ roster, with 12 of the 17 players in the lineup back from a year ago.
The top three scorers return: Karla Valles, a junior midfielder from El Paso (6 goals, 2 assists), Leslie Arias, a senior forward from Longview (3 goals, 8 assists) and Alicia Reyes, a junior midfielder from Longview (3 goals, 2 assists). Other key players back include Jessica Escobar, a sophomore forward from Nacogdoches (1 goal, 2 assists) and Diana Monsivais, a junior midfielder from Longview whose season ended early to injury a year ago.
“The last few years we hadn't been making it,” Iracheta said regarding the women’s team postseason fate. “Our objective for them is to be there. We’re a little short on numbers for the first year, but we're going give our all.”
For Iracheta, being at TC in the past smoothed out an otherwise tough transition, and kept the high standard in place.
“It helped by me playing here and being under coach Hernandez a couple years as assistant coach,” said Iracheta, whose squad faces their old coach and Wiley at home in the next-to-last regular season match on Oct. 22. “I feel better knowing the structure of the institution. We have a lot of talent. I don't doubt it that we'll get back to that (high level). We're going to surprise some people in the upcoming years.”