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Jaguars soccer program itching to start season

Aug. 20, 2012 at 3:20 a.m.

Adrian Mendoza, right,  vies for control against St. Edward's midfielder Sam Burns during Monday's scrimmage.

UHV vs. nO. 23 Oklahoma Wesleyan

SaturdayThe CageWomen, 4 p.m.Men 6 p.m.

Adrian Rigby spent the last two years cementing a foundation. This might be the year Rigby's soccer programs at the University of Houston-Victoria build on that platform and make a run toward a conference tournament berth - or more.

Both the UHV women and men had scrimmages Monday afternoon, a final preparation for their respective season openers this week. The men face Emery-Riddle in Brownsville Friday, while both schools host Oklahoma Wesleyan Saturday.

For the men, it was a continuation of a trend that developed last year. The Jaguars were impenetrable in Victoria, allowing just two goals in nine home games.

Sophomore central defender Rajan Ghag said the spring season helped the Jaguars defense coalesce into a unit.

"We only had 11 players, but (in) the back four we got four of the players that were starting in the spring season. Considering we only conceded one goal (in the spring) with the players we had, I felt we did an excellent job. All the coaches have us training hard to get a good start to the season again."

On the field, the Jaguars men were 8-0-1 last season; however, four of those wins were forfeited after inadvertently fielding an ineligible player. The program has moved on from the setback, as is seeks to show its 2011 improvement was not a fluke.

Earlier this month, well before either of the Jaguars' scrimmages, Ghag said it was apparent the 2012 outfit was gelling quickly.

"We're playing like we have known each other for a while," Ghag said. "So I think as long as we keep training hard, like we are, we can go far this year."

In addition to Ghag, the Jaguars men have five returning starters. Adrian Mendoza, Abel Farias, Juan Ibarra and Hector Gonzalez will likely play further up the field than the 6-foot-3-inch Ghag.

The women's team does not have as much continuity, as only six players return from a team that finished 5-10-1 last year. The Jaguar women started the season strong before losing seven of eight games.

Victorians Nereyda Martinez (Victoria West) and Shannon Danesi (St. Joseph) return, as will junior defensive midfielder, and captain, Vanessa Plasencia.

The women will likely play a similar 4-3-3 system as the men. Plasencia, who will play right in front of the defense, said communication will be critical if the team is to sustain momentum throughout the season.

"We have a bunch of new girls so we have to get used to our positions and how we'll play with each other," the captain said. She added the team's togetherness, even if in the preseason, will help the team from splintering as it did last year.

"It seems like a good group of girls willing to put in the hard work," Plasencia said. "The winning is a matter of time."

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