Like most head coaches, Lehman High’s Rene Medina relishes early season opportunities to see how his boys soccer program responds to pressure situations.
It took only four games for the Lobos to receive just that as they scrapped against the playoff-tested Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial Eagles in the 2019 Rebel Cup title game Saturday at Shelton Stadium.
While Lehman couldn’t corral Vets Memorial in a 4-1 loss, taking second place overall provides a helpful barometer for Medina, who expects his senior-laden Lobos to compete in a tough 25-6A this season.
“I think we’re going to be very competitive in the district,” Medina said. “It’s a tight district, but we got to see three of our district opponents in the tournament. We will be competitive.”
Lehman, which finished 5-10-3 in 2018, returns 18 seniors to the roster in 2019. That includes defensemen Zach Hickey and Martin Martinez, as well as midfielders Jesus Meza and Eric Guadarrama, all of whom are captains this year.
Medina said the group has “practiced real hard” during the offseason and is willing to put in the work. The Lobos are seeking the program’s first playoff berth since the 2013 campaign.
“They are good practice guys. They get in there and take care of their business. They want to improve,” Medina said.
Familiarity is also playing a role in the improvement process as well. Medina, who begins his second year at the helm of the Lobos, said he is establishing relationships with players and getting to know them and their families. Medina said he and his staff conducted home visits during the offseason and let players and families know what their expectations are.
“It’s helped a lot. You have an extra year to establish relationships with them and get to know them,” Medina said.
One of the primary pre-district goals was getting off to a strong start at the Rebel Cup, with the potential for winning it all.
Lehman (3-1) nearly accomplished that feat by going 3-0 in its pool play games. Lehman outscored all three of their pool play opponents 7-2.
But Vets Memorial provided a challenge Lehman had not seen during its run through the tournament. The Eagles’ mix of speed and physical play overwhelmed Lehman, which trailed 2-0 at halftime.
A goal from Lobo Luis Rangel roughly ten minutes into the second half cut VM’s lead to 2-1.
However, VM slammed on the gas pedal and scored two additional goals in the final 20-plus minutes of the match. Medina said matching up against VM in a meaningful contest was a new challenge.
“It’s a challenge we need to meet and we haven’t met a challenge like this. It was a tough opponent and it was a game with something that was on the line,” Medina said. “It was something new to them. But now we know how to meet the challenge next time.”
Equally as beneficial was taking on competition that nearly mirrors what the Lobos could face during their grueling 16-game district slate.
“It shows us how we respond to this type of play and personnel in the field,” Medina said. “It’s a good look for us.”
Lehman travels to Smithson Valley High to participate in the Ranger Classic this weekend. The Lobos open district play Jan. 15 at home against Austin High. Kickoff is at 7:45 p.m.