The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros men’s soccer program returned to the pitch for their first team practice of the 2021 fall season on Tuesday at the UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex.
The return to action was met with great excitement by UTRGV head coach Bryheem Hancock and his coaching staff as the program looks to build off an extremely successful 2021 spring season.
“I’m excited,” Hancock said. “It was great to see the guys finally get their feet on the ground. I know they are excited – a lot of nervous energy.”
The coaching staff has a three-step program in place to maximize the limited preseason practice time. The first step centers around conditioning, as the team was put through various timed drills and later played a six-minute match.
Postbaccalaureate student Bryce Box was proud and impressed with the work his teammates put in over the offseason to enter at near-peak condition.
“I think we are in the best shape since I’ve been here,” Box said. “This is my fifth-year here and coming in from the summer break some guys weren’t fit sometimes, but this time everybody is on the same page and fit. Ready to start playing.”
In later stages of the offseason regiment, UTRGV will focus on defensive concepts and corrections from last season’s lone regular season loss to Dixie State.
UTRGV will feature 16 returners, including All-Western Athletic Conference (WAC) First Team selectee junior Elyad Shojaei, All-WAC second teamers juniors Reshaun Walkes, Moiad Ankir, and Trevor Schneider, All-WAC Honorable Mention junior Jan Engels, and All-WAC Freshman Team selectee Javier Chavez.
Continuity within the program is critical and returners will play a crucial role in assisting the newcomers with the ins and outs of Hancock’s system throughout the preseason.
“The biggest thing is that you have guys here with experience that have been here,” Hancock said. “They’ll help the new guys. Just getting everybody on the same page as quickly as possible is always understanding our positions and relationships on the field.”
The energy throughout the program is undeniable, as UTRGV seeks to claim its first WAC title.
Hancock’s biggest message headed into the season is to lock-in on the task at hand and that starts with their exhibition match Aug. 21 against St. Mary’s at the Brownsville Sports Park and season-opener Aug. 26 at Central Arkansas.
“It’s one game at a time,” Hancock said. “Think about nothing further than just the first match we have.”