The John Tyler soccer programs, both alive and kicking after strong seasons, hope to be picking up where they left off last year with the 2013 season set to get under way.
John Tyler's girls and boys teams advanced to the playoffs last year together for the first time in a decade, a trend they try to continue starting with tournament action today.
Fifth-year head coach Howard Story leads the Lions while first-year coach William Aranguren takes over for the Lady Lions.
The Lions finished 18-5-2 while getting to the sectional round a second consecutive season.
JT returns a pair of first-team all-district performers in senior midfielder Porfirio Benitez and senior defender Juan Cornejo. Daniel Montoya (senior keeper), Naid Pineda (senior midfielder) and Jose Valdez (junior midfielder, forward) all merited second team all-district honors a year ago.
Other key performers in the fold for JT include Noe Diaz (defensive midfielder), Gerardo Lopez (midfielder) and a pair of newcomers to the forward position: senior Daniel Nieto and freshman Jose Paz, currently out injured.
The Lions lost mainstay Abner Barrera, a two-time District 31-4A Most Valuable Player. The Lions look to a number of multi-faceted players to account for his absence.
"We're just asking everyone to step up," Story said. "A lot of players are (utility) players. I can put them in different places. That has its pluses and minuses."
Story sports a 4-for-4 record getting previous teams to the playoffs. The Lions play only two non-district matches at home, both at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium against Robert E. Lee (Jan. 22) and Jacksonville (Feb. 5) prior to beginning district play.
"I think some kids are going to step up," said Story, who decided to wait before naming team captains. "I think the character of the team is going to be different. Every game is part of a whole and we're working to greater heights. We're building every time we play a game."
The JT girls kicked the habit of missing the postseason last year, getting to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
The Lady Lions changed coaches in the offseason after Paul Frye accepted a job at Katy Taylor. Aranguren, who assisted Frye last year, transitioned into the lead voice in the offseason.
"The group of girls I have are awesome," said Aranguren, who served as Lions' head coach from 2005-07. "Coach Frye came in and turned it around. I was happy to work with him. He left me a really good team. The girls responded favorably."
A steady pool of talent awaits Aranguren, led by sophomores Yelsi Rosales (sweeper) and Esperanza Zavaleta (center midfielder), who shared newcomer of the year honors last year on both the All-District 31-4A and All-East Texas teams. Zavaleta topped JT with 15 goals.
First-team all-district performer Adrianna Perez (sophomore striker) adds to JT's returnees, along with Idania Alvarado (senior defender) and Sulema Medina (senior midfielder), both of whom made the second-team last year. Three more upperclassmen provide experience: Karla Hernandez (senior forward, wing), Kayla Hutchinson (senior midfielder, defender) and Lily Macedo (senior striker).
Rebecca Renteria, a junior, protects the goal for JT, with sophomore Jolene Calleja playing another one of the striker positions. The remainder of the varsity consists of Alexa Cornelio (senior forward), Kenia Delgado (junior center midfielder), Michelle Garcia (sophomore defender) and Leslie Jaramillo (senior stopper).
The Lady Lions hope to build off last year's 12-9-4 season.
"It looks more polished," Aranguren said of the Lady Lions' play. "We're trying to maintain that level and show we've matured and progressed."
John Tyler Lions 2013 Soccer Schedule
Jan. 10 —vs. Marshall (at Kilgore), 3 p.m.; Jan. 11—vs. Paris (at Kilgore), 1 p.m.; Jan. 12—vs. Palestine (at Kilgore), 8:30 a.m.; Jan. 15—at Lufkin, 6 p.m.; Jan. 17—vs. Hallsville (at Longview), 7 p.m.; Jan. 18—vs. Spring Hill (at Longview), 7 p.m.; Jan. 19—vs. Henderson (at Longview), 10:30 a.m.; Jan. 22—vs. Robert E. Lee, 7 p.m.; Jan. 24—vs. A&M Consolidated (at Lufkin), 2 p.m.; Jan. 25 — vs. Mount Pleasant (at Lufkin), Noon; Jan. 26—vs. Livingston (at Lufkin), 11 a.m.; Jan. 28—at Sulphur Springs, 6 p.m.; Feb. 5—Jacksonville, 7 p.m.; Feb. 12—*Athens, 7 p.m.; Feb. 15—*at Mabank, 6 p.m.; Feb. 19—*Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.; Feb. 22—*Whitehouse, 7 p.m.; Feb. 26—*at Lindale, 7 p.m.; March 1—*at Athens, 7 p.m.; March 8—*Mabank, 6 p.m.; March 12—*at Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.; March 19—*at Whitehouse, 7 p.m.; March 22—*Lindale, 7 p.m.
John Tyler Lady Lions 2013 Soccer Schedule
Jan. 10-12—at Mount Pleasant Tournament; Jan. 15—at Dallas Jefferson, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 17-19—at Lufkin Tournament; Jan. 22—at Texas High, 6:30 p.m.; Jan. 25—Jasper, 7 p.m.; Feb. 1—North Lamar, 7 p.m.; Feb. 4—at Palestine, 7 p.m.; Feb. 8—Mount Pleasant, 7 p.m.; Feb. 12—*at Athens, 7 p.m.; Feb. 15—*Mabank, 7 p.m.; Feb. 19—*at Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.; Feb. 22—*at Whitehouse, 7 p.m.; Feb. 26—*Lindale, 7 p.m.; March 1—Athens, 7 p.m.; March 8—*at Mabank, 7 p.m.; March 12—*Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.; March 19—*Whitehouse, 7 p.m.; March 22 — *at Lindale, 7 p.m.