Entering his first season as head coach of the Hays Rebel boys soccer team, Cole Reynolds has worked to change the culture of the program.
By building a squad with discipline and placing an emphasis on improving the defense, Reynolds, a longtime assistant coach with the program, hopes it can translate to wins in 2020.
Last week, Hays captured two wins en route to a sixth place finish at the annual Rebel Cup tournament.
“We’ve had a couple of seasons toward the bottom of the table and things have been a little bit scattered out with the team,” Reynolds said. “I’m trying really hard to instill some discipline … making sure everybody is showing up and putting in the hard work together.”
Reynolds, who enters his 12th season on the sidelines at Hays, said familiarity with the roster has helped ease his transition to becoming the Rebels head coach this offseason.
“It helps by knowing who these kids are and what their skill set is in all of them,” said Reynolds.
Primarily running a 4-2-3-1 formation, Reynolds’ focus is for the Rebels to apply defensive pressure and use a counter-attack better than they have in recent seasons.
“In the last season or two we’ve done fairly well in terms of scoring,” Reynolds said. “We’ve been close to teams especially at the midway point, but we have suffered in terms of keeping goals out of our own net. That’s something we’ve been working on, trying to strengthen our defense and to work together.”
Hays will rely on senior goalkeeper Lane Reynolds, senior outside-backer Anthony Hellen and junior defender Michael Banyasz to lead the way for an improved defensive effort.
Lane returns as a two-year starter at goalkeeper for the Rebels, and his invaluable experience brings a knowledgeable voice to the defense, said Reynolds.
“It’s a big plus for us as a team,” Reynolds said. “He’s (Lane) had lots and lots of shots in his face, and has lots of experience working with the defense. I think that hopefully transitions to this year’s new group.”
Senior striker Gerardo Rodriguez returns as the Rebels’ leading scorer from a season ago, while junior Cooper Cawley will man the middle of the field and be used as a transition piece from the defense to the offense. Rodriguez, Cawley and Reynolds were all named team captains.
“I’ve got lots of really good players,” Reynolds said. “And I think our task right now is to figure out how to play well together.”
A strength of this year’s Rebels squad is the height and speed across the roster. Reynolds said the team is working hard on utilizing its size advantage for headers and set pieces.
“This is a taller team that we’ve had in a while, which I’m hoping will work to our advantage both defensively and offensively, and with set pieces,” Reynolds said.
Heading into the 2020 season Reynolds is looking to fill out his starting lineup, all while working towards building consistency and team cohesiveness.
“I’ve got quite a few talented players, but at this point I’m trying to find the 11 best players and the 11 that play best together,” Reynolds said. “I think we are getting really close to that, we are trying real hard to get that figured out.”
Hays travels to play in the Copa Akins tournament in Austin Jan. 7-11 before opening district play at home Jan. 18 against Anderson.