Under the backdrop of a fading sun and in front of a small crowd, Lehman girls soccer coach Nauri Garcia visited with former members of the team before the program’s seventh annual alumni game.
The tradition began in earnest when team captain Audrey Gaytan passed away in 2010. At the time of her death, Garcia called Gaytan the “heart and soul” of the program during her four-year stint with Lehman.
“It’s a moment we share together because a lot of the girls are connected to her,” Garcia said.
Garcia appreciates the opportunity to revisit his past and rekindle old relationships that were built on Lobo Field before the grind of the 2016-17 season begins.
“To see all these young ladies come up, now they’re moms and nurses and things like that,” Garcia said. “It feels good to say ‘wow, look at you’ and connect as a family. It’s a good tradition that we do every year.”
With the season beginning Thursday at the McAllen showcase, the alumni game also serves as a regular season tune-up for the team. Garcia said he hasn’t seen his team in almost weeks since they were released for winter break.
“It’s an opportunity to get the dust off and enter the season as best as we can,” Garcia said. “I wanted to see how much we lost over the break so when we come back tomorrow for practice, we need to know what to jump on and improve.”
Garcia structured the alumni game in three periods of 20 minutes each, totaling a 60-minute game. The varsity team played in the first and third periods, while the junior varsity squad took the pitch for the second period.
When his team re-convened Monday night against the alumni team, Garcia saw a team struggling to finish the deal.
Lehman lost 3-0 to the alumni squad, which scored goals in the 34th, 37th and 59th minute. The Lady Lobos attempted 11 shots, including eight on goal, but could not convert the opportunities into points.
“We need to finish,” Garcia said. “We missed about six key opportunities that we could have scored in. We need to finish.”
For all intents and purposes, Garcia said the alumni game is more of a “celebratory practice” than a game.
The real work, Garcia said, begins in the two weeks preceding the team’s first district game. Lehman has the McAllen Showcase and non-district matchups against Del Rio and Wimberley before its first district game Jan. 24 against Vista Ridge.
“Everything from here to the first game in district is about building,” Garcia said. “The tournaments aren’t important – what’s important is the first district game. Everything else is practice.”