Entering the 2020 season, Hays girls soccer head coach Mario Bellver wants his team to have fun, but also strive toward ending the program’s three-year playoff drought.
“So expectations I think, first thing is we should have fun out there on the field,” Bellver said. “I believe win as many games as possible. And one goal is to definitely be in the top four (record in district).”
In addition to lifting weights and running conditioning drills during the off-season program, the Lady Rebels have focused on perfecting their ball handling and scoring more goals. In order to score more goals, Bellver wants his team to play to their system rather than a formation, and to continue to push the ball up through their wings.
Hays returns a small senior class of just four players that includes forward Izel Gaitan, midfielder Cianne Talamo, as well as defenders Aliya Ibarra and Mariah Acosta. Gaitan and Talamo were All-District selections last season, and will be team captains for the 2020 season.
Talamo, who is committed to play soccer at Northwestern State, brings a playmaking presence to the middle of the field for the Lady Rebels. Bellver said Talamo’s range and speed of running back and forth as the key factors in her playmaking ability.
As for Gaitan, she will be tasked with leading Hays defense. Her leadership qualities and competitive spirt gives Bellver confidence in her ability to lead the team.
On the offensive attack, Hays will be relying on junior strikers Kayli Wagner and Janneke Waenink. Wagner returns from last year’s squad, while Waenink, an international exchange student from the Netherlands, is playing in her first season with the Lady Rebels.
At goalkeeper, Hays will have two players vying for the starting position in junior Katherine Foate and freshman Bella Briceno. Bellver envisions using both goalkeepers throughout the season.
In order to get better on the field and achieve their goal of making the playoffs, Bellver wants to see improvement with communication between players and having a good mindset during practices and games.
“I want to see that we hold together as a team, everybody should be able to talk to everybody on the team about anything soccer related,” said Bellver. “And everybody with a positive mindset. If we keep that positive mindset, and we are able to run and play soccer the way we practice, then I think that should definitely show on the scoreboard.”
Hays opens the season Jan. 2 against Corpus Christi Flour Bluff at Burger Stadium in Austin.