By Stephen Henderson
Mother Nature has not been cooperative for spring sports tryouts that were held last week at Patrick County High School. What with bone-chilling rain, tornado alerts and cool late February temperatures, the hardy student athletes have had to bundle up for tryouts at the high school.
Even though teams were able to meet indoors as well as on the fields, several teams have not had adequate time to make final rosters. Coaches have said that the process will continue this week.
Boys’ Cougar soccer
One team that has been holding practice outside is the Cougar boys’ soccer team. Last Thursday some the young men were bundled up in hoodies and sweats while others were wearing their soccer shorts and lightweight sweaters to combat the occasional snowflake as they warmed up with stretching exercises before hitting the practice field behind the high school.
Then it was all business as players broke off into groups working on passing, shots on goal and dribbling down field to each other.
According to Coach Oscar Tejeda, the team is still holding tryouts with a large number of players competing for varsity spots.
“I am highly impressed with how skilled our younger players are and how this team is united,” Tejeda said.
Returning starters are Abel Chavez, Jordan Dalton, Bailey Holt and Jesus Olivares. “They will be my key players this year,” Tejeda said. “They will play a great role in enhancing the skills of our younger players.”
Tejeda hopes to improve the team’s record from last year and to be able to compete competitively in conference play. “I think we will have a much better season than last year with a younger group of players on the pitch this season,” he said.
Tejeda, who has been coaching the Cougars for four seasons, is a PCHS graduate who played soccer throughout his high school career. While at Ferrum College, he played soccer and received training for coaching from college coaches.
“I hope this team continues to improve as individual players and as a team. I am excited to see what this season has in store for us—we are headed in the right direction for a competitive season,” he said.
Assisting Tejeda are Jorge Tejeda and Adrian Edwards.
The first game and home game is Monday, March 8, at 7 p.m. against Floyd.
Lady Cougar softball
According to Coach Roger Wilson, the team hasn’t had a full week of practice yet, but it has been conditioning some in previous weeks. “It appears that everyone is ready to go back to work and prepare for a tough season ahead,” he said.
Basically, the core of last year’s team is returning this season. “The foundation is there for this team to be as good or better than last year’s team,” Wilson said.
Even though the final team roster has not been set, Wilson said that each member will be expected to do her job every day in practice and games. “We must function as a team to win as a team,” he said.
“I am very excited for the season to start. We have great coaches at all levels, and I look for all the teams to have a great season,” Wilson said.
“This is going to be a very tough season from the start—we have to prepare quickly but efficiently,” he said. “I know we have a big target on our backs because everyone wants to beat us; that is why we have to be ready to play from the first pitch until the last out is called, but these ladies know this and they will be ready, They like winning!” Wilson said.
Wilson feels that his players should first have fun, then work hard and to be confident in themselves. “That’s a winning recipe. As far as how far we go, that’s a question for the players—that is up to them,” he said.
Last year the Lady Cougar softball team won the conference title for the second year in a row. They made it to the final four in state competition. Also, the Lady Cougars were undefeated at home. “It was a great season,” Wilson said.
Wilson is assisted by Nikki Handy; junior varsity head coach is Brittany Stovall and assisted by Ashley Strickland; middle school coach is Ryan Pendleton.
The Lady Cougars will scrimmage Grayson County at home Friday, March 4, starting a 5 p.m. They will travel to Carroll County for a scrimmage March 9 at 5 p.m. The first home game is against Bassett March 14 starting at 5 p.m.
Lady Cougar tennis
A total of 12 players are competing for starting spots on this season’s Lady Cougar tennis team. Coach Megan Richardson is excited to see the dedication, desire, commitment and willingness to go the extra mile from these players.
The team is made up of one senior, four juniors and seven sophomores.
“I am excited that we have seven players returning from last season,” she said. “We look forward to seeing how much they have improved as well as how they stand with players in our competition.
“Since I have been coaching, this is the first season we are going into the season with our top-six seeds having tennis experience,” Richardson said. “Because of this, we are looking to compete more on par in our conference this season.”
Richardson hopes that this season will identify strengths and weakness of each player and develop them into stronger players. “We want to focus more on consistency with placement of the tennis ball as well as strengthening our bodies to withstand long and strenuous matches,” she said.
Richardson is assisted by Coach Sharon Smith.
Richardson is grateful that the cracks in the home courts will be repaired in March. “However, we are concerned with how the temporary displacement will affect our home matches and practices,” she said.
The Lady Cougars tennis team travels to Franklin County March 10, for a scrimmage. Their first home match is March 15, against Bassett.
Coach Matt Mabe is looking at a talented group of Cougar baseball players, albeit one that lacks true varsity experience. Thirteen players make up the roster for this season, including two seniors, four juniors and seven sophomores.
The top returnees are Austin Vernon, Eli Horton, and Aubrey Hopkins. “Vernon was an All-Conference selection last year as a sophomore, Horton will be a three-year starter and Hopkins will provide senior leadership and bring experience to a young roster,” Mabe said.
The Cougars have been working very hard the first week of practice, Mabe said. “There are multiple starting positions that have not been determined, and players are competing every day to fill those spots,” he said. “We have proven in the early going to be very sound defensively, which will be a strong point for the season in the early going.
“We return only three players with varsity experience, so this season will see a lot of new faces on the varsity level,” Mabe admitted. “There is a large group of talented sophomores that will make up a large portion of the roster. Our goal is to not get outworked by any opponent on any day and improve individually within the team concept,” he said.
The Cougars posted a 9-12 record last season and lost in the quarterfinals of the Conference 32 tournament, falling to Blacksburg 3-1 in eight innings.
Mabe is assisted by Eric Renegar. Head JV coach is Donnie Rakes, assisted by Sid Kirk. Dale Overfelt is the middle school coach.
The Cougars open their home season March 14, against Floyd County High School.
Note: Stories about boys’ tennis, girls’ soccer and track will be in next week’s edition.