Three wins over two days was enough for the Lehman Lobos boys soccer team to secure a second straight silver medal finish at the annual Rebel Cup tournament.
While Lehman struggled to counter a seasoned Del Valle Cardinal squad in a 2-1 championship game loss Saturday, Lobo head coach Rene Medina said the experience was a key moment in the learning process for his team.
Through the first four games of the season, Medina said the Lobos showed composure and teamwork on the field despite the relative lack of experience at the varsity level for many players. Lehman opened tournament play with a 2-0 Jan. 2 win over Pflugerville Weiss, followed by back-to-back 1-0 wins over Corpus Christi Winn and Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial Jan. 3 to reach the title game.
“We’ve seen good composure and teamwork, which is what you want to see at the beginning of the year. They’re still learning each other and situations,” Medina said.
However, Medina said Del Valle was the first opponent Lehman faced that was skilled in nearly every phase of the game. Those skills showed as Del Valle controlled possession for the majority of Saturday’s championship game contest, forcing the Lobos to work the ball past midfield and into the scoring third.
Despite the struggles, Lobo persistence on the offensive end paid off when Marshall DuKett buried a point-blank shot in front of the net to give Lehman a 1-0 lead at the 26th minute mark.
Roughly five minutes later, Del Valle countered with a goal to tie the match at 1-1 heading into halftime. The Cardinals put the game away midway through the second half when they tallied a go-ahead goal in the 64th minute.
“We saw a team that was strong on the ball, fast and had good skills to them,” Medina said. “That’s the first time we’ve seen that whole combination of factors. Now they see what the whole package is from a solid 6A program and we have to learn from it.”
Amid the optimism of capturing second place at the Rebel Cup, Medina said he hopes the loss to Del Valle “leaves a nasty taste in our mouths” as the Lobos move forward in the season.
“It’s good for the program and it’s good that we got here (to the championship game) two years in a row, but we’re trying to set the bar for them to not be okay with being second,” Medina said.
Lehman will compete in the Smithson Valley tournament before opening district play at Westlake Jan. 21.