As soon as the Schreiner soccer players trudged onto the practice field at 6:30 a.m. Aug. 15, the second day of two-a-days, their first-year coach Alyssa Taramona introduced them to the fitness test.

Schreiener’s three team captains (Tacey Howell, Sierra Nemelka and Victoria Favela) laugh about the memory inside Taramona’s office on Wednesday. But on that cool August morning, they didn’t find much humor in their new coach’s test.

Taramona’s test featured a heavy dose of running. For 20 minutes, they ran 100-yard sprints at the start of every minute. That apparently wasn’t challenging enough because they had to finish a broken mile in less that 5:30.

Taramona wasn’t just building her players’ stamina, but was also testing their spirit, seeing if they had the mental strength to endure the challenges they would face during the season.

“They weren’t exactly the happiest,” Taramona said. “But it was a bonding experiencing. They were struggling together.”

The Lady Mountaineers have faced their share of struggles this season — they’ve had 11 players suffer injuries while playing a difficult schedule. So far, they’ve had the resolve to overcome those obstacles, posting a 4-3-2 record, almost matching their win total from last season.

They will try to keep rolling when they host Southwestern on Friday at 2:30 p.m.

“They have exceeded my expectations,” Taramona said. “I’m proud of the way they are talking to each other, encouraging each other, pushing each other to dig in deep, mentally and physically. They have overcome things they didn’t know they could overcome before.

“It’s a great foundations to start off on,” Taramona continued. “These girls have worked really hard embracing the new things I have thrown at them, all the challenges I have thrown at them.”

Taramona certainly possesses the resume to build a winning program at Schreiner. She was a four-year goalkeeper at St. Mary’s in San Antonio, holding the school record for career saves, saves in a season and career minutes played. She spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater. But when her friend, Nick Morrison, stepped down from coaching the Schreiner women’s soccer team, he encouraged Taramona to apply for his old position. She followed his advice and received her first opportunity to be a head coach at the college level.

There’s already tangible evidence she’s energizing the program. On Sept. 13, they traveled to Belton to play the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, who was nationally ranked in the preseason. No one on Schreiner’s roster had ever experienced a win against UMHB, so the Lady Mountaineers were simply hoping to give the Cru a fight. Taramona told her players before the game that the team that showed the most heart was going to win the match. Turns out, she was right. All those sprints the Lady Mountaineers ran during the fitness test paid dividends that day, as they returned to Kerrville with a 2-1 victory.

“This was the first time we scored on them, let alone beat them,” Howell said. “I think that was a signature win for our program and team.”

Needless to say, Howell and her teammates are excited about the program’s future, but they aren’t satisfied. They know they could have better ball movement, and initiate more counterattacks. So they are going to keep working hard, so when Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play begins on Oct. 5, they will be ready.

And Taramona is going to continue to challenge them to reach their goals, just like the fitness test.

“We have all pushed ourselves because we want to get to the conference tournament,” Nemelka said. “We want to win the conference. We want to be at the top; we want people to be afraid of us, and having a new coach, trying new things definitely pushed us. I think we look better than we ever have before.”

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