Khanik Mendoza was as close to a head coach as you can be when he served as assistant coach of the John Tyler girls soccer program the last two years.
Now he’ll be the actual head coach.
After his brother, Paakal, moved from girls head coach to boys head coach a few weeks before the season, Khanik was promoted to head coach of the Lady Lions, who open their season Tuesday.
John Tyler hosts Mount Pleasant at 7 p.m. Tuesday to open the 2017, Khanik Mendoza’s first game as the head coach.
“It wasn’t like a big change on our side the girl program because I was already the assistant coach,” Mendoza said. “We worked very close together so we both knew pretty much everything.
“We were both running both teams at the same time so it wasn’t a huge transition. It wasn’t a big change because we were already working the same program.”
The Lady Lions went 3-12-3 last season and return their two all-district selections from that squad: first teamer Maritza Montoya and second teamer Angelina Alvarado.
Montoya and Alvarado are both sophomores on a young team that has twice as many freshmen as seniors.
Of John Tyler’s 23 players on the opening-day roster, 16 are freshmen or sophomores, with three total seniors.
“I would call it a young team, but we do have some skills pretty much all over the field,” Mendoza said.
Montoya will be the team’s fulcrum in midfield, the person Mendoza said he’ll depend upon the most. She was one of JT’s primary sources of offense last year and will be joined in the midfield by junior Tracy Ochoa.
Alvarado will be the Lady Lions’ biggest attacking threat up front. Other forwards hoping to make an impact will be freshmen Noelia Reyes and Meraida Pineda.
Defense has been receiving most of the focus during practice. Looking to keep teams away from goal will be junior sweeper Anahi Hernandez and junior stopper Betsy Barrera.
Freshman Odalis Garcia will be in goal on Day 1, a first-year soccer player who Mendoza said has picked up the position quickly after playing volleyball in the fall. Garcia will start while sophomore Delicia Roland recovers from a hand injury.
John Tyler played two scrimmages with wildly varying results. The Lady Lions beat Marshall 4-0 but lost to Athens 6-0, which Mendoza called a good learning experience.
After hosting Mount Pleasant, JT plays in the Hallsville Tournament this weekend. District 11-6A play begins Jan. 24 at Rockwall as the Lady Lions move up from Class 5A to 6A.
Mendoza said the team has he heart to never give up during a match and they’re bonding on and off the field.
In his first year in charge, he’ll hope that carries over into a season to build upon in years to come.
“It’s a young team,” Mendoza said. “Some people may see it as a disadvantage but I kind of see it as an advantage because I see in the future I’m starting to build a stronger program from the bottom up.”
2017 John Tyler Girls Soccer Schedule
Date Opponent Time
Jan. 10 Mount Pleasant 7 p.m.
Jan. 12 at Hallsville# 6 p.m.
Jan. 13 vs. Whitehouse# 6 p.m.
Jan. 14 vs. Pine Tree# noon
Jan. 17 Jacksonville 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 at Spring Hill 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 at Rockwall* 7 p.m.
Jan. 27 North Mesquite* 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 at Mesquite* 7 p.m.
Feb. 3 at Rockwall-Heath* 7 p.m.
Feb. 7 Longview* 7 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Mesquite Horn* 7 p.m.
Feb. 14 Robert E. Lee* 7 p.m.
Feb. 17 Rockwall* 7 p.m.
Feb. 21 at North Mesquite* 7 p.m.
Feb. 24 Mesquite* 7 p.m.
Feb. 28 Rockwall-Heath* 7 p.m.
March 3 at Longview* 7 p.m.
March 7 Mesquite Horn* 7 p.m.
March 10 at Robert E. Lee* 7 p.m.
All home games at John Tyler High School
# - Hallsville Tournament
* - District 11-6A