RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros men’s soccer team has been staying busy in preparation for the start of their 2022 season and on Monday the Vaqueros were able to get hold their first team practice of the season at the UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex.
“It’s been several months of looking at video, watching guys play in the summer with their teams, Zoom calls, a lot of phone calls with the guys making sure that they are doing everything they can do to get ready for preseason,” UTRGV Head Coach Bryheem Hancock said. “To finally get to this day and to see the guys in uniform and see them move around has been great. I am very pleased with the first session of where the group is immediately. Our captains Jan Engels and Yusuf Cueceoglu are already setting the tone. It really helps when you have guys that have been here show the new guys and they are listening. That’s all we can ask is that they listen and give a full effort.”
Engels and Cueceoglu lead a group of 10 returners heading into the 2022 season who are trying to set the bar early in the preseason.
Cueceoglu and Moiad Ankir brought the energy on day one as they teamed up with newcomers Kgodiso Sukati, Garret Wild, and Jason Robles to win the 5v5 competition. The 5v5 competition brought out the competitiveness in everyone and allowed everyone to get rid of any nerves and rust.
The next couple of weeks the Vaqueros will be focusing on several different areas as they get ready for their first regular season match against Bryant on August 25 at the UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex.
The three big things that will be emphasized are defense, chemistry, and fitness.
“I think the big thing for us is to get organized defensively,” Hancock said. “We have to figure out our shape attacking wise. Then we have to build relationships within those positions and continue to build on our fitness. We have a good amount of days before we get to our first regular season match so we will use our weekend matches to prepare and get answers and fix things that we need to.”
The Vaqueros participated in a fitness test at the beginning of practice on Monday as Coach Hancock was pleased with how the team showed up on the first day.
While the Vaqueros were having fun in their 5v5 competition, Coach Hancock couldn’t help but notice how competitive each group was and that speaks on the level of talent throughout this season’s roster.
Coach Hancock also knows that talent alone is not going to make a team great. Character of each member of the team will factor in how well a team meshes together and a strong bond can have a deep impact on a season.
So far, Coach Hancock likes what he sees from his team.
“There is talent,” Hancock said. “Talent is a big thing but also this group is full of good people. The new guys have been talking to the guys that have been here a while since they got on campus. To me that shows they are open to wanting to become a family. That has been biggest thing to come from our first talks yesterday. Is it by sitting in your dorm and keeping to yourself or is it asking questions and getting to know each other. That is what they have done.”
The next couple of weeks could set up the Vaqueros for success in 2022. Coach Hancock and his staff want to emphasize the importance of defense, since they feel they have different options for scoring goals, and figuring out everyone’s roles.
The Vaqueros know there is plenty work to be done over the next several weeks, but everyone is excited to be back on the pitch working towards the same goal.
“The biggest thing for us is defending,” Hancock said. “I have said it before. We can score goals. I think we have a lot of quality in that aspect but it’s defensively. It starts with the group, the whole entire group and everyone understanding what their role is. Then everyone needs to work for each other, unselfishness and give extra work when needed. That will be a big priority for us the first week and then we can start to work on the attack. It’s just fun to be out here with these guys, a new group, and we are excited.”
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