Taylor Smith may be starting his first season as a varsity head coach, but he already sounds confident as he leads the Stephenville Yellow Jackets into their 2018 soccer season.
The Jackets will have their first game of the regular season at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Liberty Hill.
Smith said he is loving the fact that he gets the opportunity to coach at SHS, and seems more than ready to show what he can do in his very first coaching job.
“I’ve always lived my life trying to excel,” Smith said. “Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. I don’t think anybody has higher expectations than I do.
“From what I’ve seen, a district championship is expected. I think we have as good, if not better, talent than last year. I expect us to win district and make a run in the playoffs.”
The former Tarleton State University football player played club soccer when he was growing up, and graduated from Flower Mound High School. Smith played one season at TSU, as a wide receiver and tight end.
Under former head coach Chayden Feist, the Yellow Jackets reached the 2016 regional semifinals and finished with a 15-0-2 record. But Smith -- who has also served as a strength and conditioning coach while interning at Tarleton -- said he’s ready to use his overall sports background to his advantage in leading the Jackets.
“Soccer has always been one of my favorite sports. I enjoy the game,” Smith said. “I’ve always been familiar with the game, and a lot of coaching things are interchangeable. There’s definitely a learning curve.”
Among the key players Smith is counting on to help lead the way this season are seniors Ivan Cabrera, Logan Kirk and A.J. Brown, along with juniors Alfredo Rocha and Kevin Martinez.
Rocha is the team’s goal keeper, while Martinez is a winger. Cabrera is a defensive midfielder, Brown plays center back and Kirk is a utility player.
“We’re going to have to find a couple more defensive players to play on the back end,” Smith said. “I think we’re going to have a strong attacking play. The biggest thing is finding the right guys for a couple of positions. We definitely have the players.”
To find that perfect mix, some players may end up switching to different positions, Smith said.
Smith said this school year is the first time that varsity soccer has had its own period during the school day, and that made “a lot of difference” for the players to prepare for the upcoming season — particularly in having a chance to spend more time with his players.
“Having that extra time helped build that rapport,” Smith said.
In their preseason scrimmage on Tuesday, the Jackets defeated Fort Worth Southwest on the road, 2-0. They got one goal apiece from Jorge Gallegos and Kevin Martinez.