A win over the Lanier Vikings Jan. 5 highlighted a 1-1-1 start to the season for the host Hays Rebels boys soccer team at the annual Rebel Cup at Shelton Stadium last week.
For head coach Jason Burnett, the weekend not only shepherded the program’s first win at the tournament in two years, but continued progress for a team looking to improve.
“We got a win under our belt and a tie under our belt. I’m proud of the way we’re coming together. The emotions we’re playing with is good. It’s positive,” Burnett said. “The fact they’re getting upset about tying, that’s very encouraging.”
Burnett said Hays’ roster is a younger group that also features some age. Javier Rodriguez is one of the seniors who return from last year’s squad and who Burnett said has provided a positive influence for younger players.
However, several of the seniors on the roster are getting their first taste of varsity level soccer.
“Others are junior varsity juniors that have been through the system and they’re now here,” Burnett said. “They’re humbled and happy to be here and excited to be here.”
Some of the younger players who could make an impact include sophomore Joe Banuelos, who Burnett said has been a “good” utility player and that he can put him anywhere on the field.
Defenseman Rodolfo Leyva leads the junior class along with goalkeeper Evan Barker.
Freshman Gerardo Rodriguez, brother of Javier, has scored goals in two of the Rebels’ first three games this season.
Burnett said the siblings are “loving” the dynamic of playing on the same pitch. He added it’s also the first time he has coached a pair of siblings at the same time on the same team.
“You can tell they like being on the field together and they read each other well … You’ve always got that brotherly love. It’s good they can get on each other, but it’s productive.” Jason Burnett, head coach
Hays began putting the pieces together Jan. 5 when they defeated Lanier 2-1 to open the Rebel Cup. The Rebels followed with a 1-1 draw with Corpus Christi Calallen, followed by a 1-0 loss to Anderson.
“So far, I’m pleased with everyone’s performance,” Burnett said.
Several new district opponents dot the Rebels’ schedule in 2017. Hays also tackles Lehman, Westlake and Lake Travis, which they took on as members of 14-6A last season.
While Burnett said he didn’t have knowledge of Vista Ridge, Vandegrift and Leander, he understood there’s a “lot of good soccer up north.”
“We figure every game is going to be like a playoff game. That’s the way we’re going into it,” Burnett said. “We’ll hope for the best. Work hard, play hard.”