A year ago, newly promoted Robert E. Lee head coach Marty Germany divulged a secret to his wife, Debbie.
Despite inheriting a team that had finished under .500 and missed the playoffs for just the second time in 13 years, he felt the Red Raiders would be playing at the end of the season in the state tournament.
Lee almost made that premonition a reality. The Red Raiders reached the Class 5A regional semifinals, their furthest advancement in the playoffs since 2002.
This time Germany is not keeping his aspirations secret.
“The expectations are there,” said Germany, who begins his second season as Lee head coach today when the Red Raiders take on Palestine at 5 p.m. in their first game of the Michael Merritt Showcase in Kilgore.
“They’re kids; they want to do well and they know we did it last year and they want to go on and now (go even further). They are taking a very workmanlike approach to it.”
The Lady Raiders are coming off another strong regular season that saw REL finish as runner-up in District 11-5A before being upset in the playoffs.
Chris Woodard begins his 19th season as head coach today when REL faces Odessa Permian at 5 p.m. in its opening game of the Red Bull National Elite Prep Showcase in Fort Worth.
Woodard admits his team was a little jealous of the boy’s success and believes that will fuel the Lady Raiders in 2013.
“It may have kind of made them mad more than anything else that they got knocked out early and saw how much fun the guys were having and they could’ve had that too,” said Woodard, who has coached REL to 15 district titles.
“This year that will be in their minds a little more.”
Lee graduated Reed Pool and Tanner Tebbetts, last year’s All-East Texas MVP and Co-Newcomer of the Year, respectively.
That’s a combined 27 goals and nine assists that will need to be replaced.
The Red Raiders also lost starting goalkeeper Austin Martel to graduation.
Germany believes he has the right players in place to fill those gaps and keep Lee churning toward more glory.
“On Day 1 of last year I walked in and said, ‘Hey guys we had a losing season (in 2011), but you are a different group,’ and the same thing happened this year when we did great last year, but that’s not us; that was last year’s team,” Germany said. “There are pieces that are missing and new pieces in place. We have to do the work this year to try and continue that status of excellence.”
Lee returns 13 varsity lettermen and five full-time starters from a team that finished 15-7-5, led by senior defenders George Martinez and Mikey Wilkins. Both received All-East Texas honors a year ago with Martinez also voted Defender of the Year in District 11-5A. Wilkins finished third on the team in scoring with eight goals, most of them coming off of free kicks.
The Red Raiders also welcome back senior midfielder Giovanni Sosa (three goals, two assists), senior defender Case Carnes (two goals, three assists) and senior forward Uriel Chavez (three goals, three assists).
Senior forward Lumi Kaba broke into the starting lineup during last season and scored all three of his goals in the playoffs. He is back and Germany believes Kaba will be able to pick up where he left off.
Junior Henry Plancarte started a few matches as goalkeeper last season and will be penciled in as starter to begin 2013, but Germany also believes sophomore Allan Gilliam and junior Omar Valtierra will be in the mix.
Lee will continue to play its “aggressive possession” style of a 4-4-2, which Germany said sometimes becomes a 4-2-4 with the outside midfielders pressing forward.
“We want to possess the ball and control the ball, but as soon as possible, we want to head to goal,” Germany said.
An unwelcome trend is happening for Lee.
The Lady Raiders have been dumped out of the playoffs in the first round in two of its last three seasons and was also denied a district title for the second time in three years.
Lee returns four every-day starters from with an aim to return the Lady Raiders back to its usual district championships and playoff success.
It begins with four-year starter Julia Harrison, who moved from defense to midfield last year.
The senior has been an All-Texas first teamer all three years and Woodard believes the sky is the limit for her final season.
“Julia is one of the top if not the best player in East Texas,” Woodard said.
Senior forward Brooke Johnston is back after enjoying a breakthrough 2012 campaign that saw the forward score 16 goals and receive second-team All-East Texas honors.
All three of Lee’s defenders earned all-district honors and two of them are back with junior Ariel Howells and sophomore Mallory Curtis.
In midfield, senior Kendall Bullock (one goal, two assists) and sophomore Betsy Arellano (two goals, one assist) will be called upon while REL welcomes back senior defender Libby George, who missed the majority of the 2012 season through injury.
All-District defender Abby Halbrook is not playing soccer this spring so she can concentrate solely on track. Woodard said the focus will be to fill her role so REL can keep its accustomed 3-4-3 formation.
“We’ve actually almost been playing a 3-6-1, which is a little variation on the 3-4-3,” Woodard said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do still, but they have made great strides since August.
“We lost some players to graduation, so we have some girls that are less experienced, but I am not as concerned now as I was then. That is due to their hard work.”
Lee Boys Soccer Schedule
DATE OPPONENT SITE TIME
Jan. 10-12 Kilgore Michael Merritt Showcase
Jan. 10 Palestine R.E. St. John Stadium 5 p.m.
Jan. 11 Athens R.E. St. John Stadium 3 p.m.
Jan. 12 Marshall R.E. St. John Stadium 10:30 a.m.
Jan. 15 Nacogdoches TMF Rose Stadium 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 at Diboll 7 p.m.
Jan. 17-19 Longview Tournament
Jan. 17 Red Oak Lobo Stadium 5 p.m.
Jan. 18 Kilgore Lobo Stadium 5 p.m.
Jan. 19 Pleasant Grove Longview Complex 12:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 John Tyler TMF Rose Stadium 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 at Whitehouse 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 Pine Tree Lee HS Field 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Rockwall-Heath* 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 at Longview* 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 Mesquite Horn* Lee HS Field 7 p.m.
Feb. 12 at Mesquite* Hanby Stadium 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 at North Mesquite* Berry Middle School 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 Rockwall* Lee HS Field 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 Rockwall-Heath* TMF Rose Stadium 7 p.m.
Mar. 1 Longview Lee HS Field 7 p.m.
Mar. 5 at Mesquite Horn Berry Middle School 7 p.m.
Mar. 8 Mesquite TMF Rose Stadium 7 p.m.
Mar. 22 North Mesquite TMF Rose Stadium 7 p.m.
Mar. 25 at Rockwall 7 p.m.
* -- District 12-5A game
Lee Girls Soccer Schedule
DATE OPPONENT SITE TIME
Jan. 10-12 Red Bull National Elite Prep Showcase
Jan. 10 Odessa Permian Fort Worth 5 p.m.
Jan. 11 Nolan Catholic Nolan Catholic Stadium Noon
Jan. 11 Lubbock Monterey Fort Worth 6 p.m.
Jan. 12 FW Hockaday Nolan Catholic 8 a.m.
Jan. 17-19 Lufkin Lady Pack Soccer Showcase
Jan. 17 Alvin Jase Magers Soccer Complex 4 p.m.
Jan. 18 Huntsville Jase Magers Soccer Complex Noon
Jan. 19 Nacogdoches Jase Magers Soccer Complex 11 a.m.
Jan. 24-26 Chick-Fil-A Lady Lobo Invitational
Jan. 24 Lufkin Lobo Stadium 2 p.m.
Jan. 25 Pine Tree Longview Complex 10 a.m.
Jan. 25 Whitehouse Longview Complex 4 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Pine Tree 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 Rockwall-Heath* TMF Rose Stadium 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Longview* Lee HS Field 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Mesquite Horn* Berry Middle School Field 7 p.m.
Feb. 12 Mesquite* TMF Rose Stadium 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 North Mesquite* Lee HS Field 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Rockwall* 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 Rockwall-Heath* 7 p.m.
Mar. 1 at Longview* 7 p.m.
Mar. 5 Mesquite Horn* TMF Rose Stadium 7 p.m.
Mar. 8 at Mesquite* E.H. Hanby Stadium 7 p.m.
Mar. 22 at North Mesquite* 7 p.m.
Mar. 25 *Rockwall Lee HS Field 7 p.m.