CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks ENMU freshman Carlos Viveros works his way upfield during Tuesday’s practice session at the ENMU practice field.
PORTALES — Fourth-year Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer coach Harold Munoz thinks he has his best team this season.
The problem is that the other squads in the four-team Lone Star Conference have history on their side.
ENMU, picked fourth in the conference, opens its season Thursday with a non-league contest at University of the Southwest in Hobbs.
Munoz said the Greyhounds (8-8-2, 2-5-1 LSC last season) are deeper than in the past.
“I think if we’re healthy we can beat any of them,” he said of LSC rivals Midwestern State, West Texas A&M and Incarnate Word.
The Hounds are nursing some injuries during preseason drills, Munoz said, both nothing serious. “I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks we’ll have everybody back,” he said.
The 32-man roster includes 10 international players 19 newcomers, including 16 freshmen. Munoz said two of the newcomers, Brazilian junior forward Rodrigo Pontes and freshman forward Tyler Wagley of Dallas, could help replace the graduated Emerson Rodriguez, who in two seasons became the program’s all-time scoring leader.
“If we can put the ball in the net on a regular basis, I think we’ll have a good year,” said Munoz, also a native of Brazil. “We’re waiting to see if our forwards can score goals. I think we have good improvement everywhere else on the team.”
Top returnees for the Hounds include junior defender Michael Stewart of Katy, Texas; sophomore defender Andy Jensen of Kingwood, Texas; senior defender Dreaux Plair of Alamogordo; junior midfielder Diego Santos of Natal, Brazil; sophomore midfielder Jehmaine Brooks of Toronto, Canada; sophomore midfielder Andy Wilkinson of Lewes, England, and junior midfielder Kal Herbert of Willaston, England.
Brooks, who scored two goals last season, said the depth should be better.
“Last year, we had a good starting 11, but our bench wasn’t that strong,” he said. “This year, I think our second string will be able to help.”
Brooks, selected a team captain, said this year’s team will play hard.
“These guys are a lot more determined,” he said. “They’re willing to work hard to get to where we need to be.
“We have to have communication, good work ethic and trust in each other.”
September: 1 — at University of the Southwest, 5 p.m.; 4 — Texas-Permian Basin, 3 p.m.; 6 — Lubbock Christian, 4 p.m.; 11 — West Texas A&M, 4 p.m.-x; 16 — at West Texas A&M, 6 p.m.-x; 19 — Wayland Baptist, 4 p.m.; 23 — Northeastern State, 4 p.m.; 25 — Newman, 4 p.m.; 30 — at Incarnate Word, 7:30 p.m.-x.
October: 2 — at St. Edward’s, noon; 7 — Midwestern State, 4 p.m.-x; 14 — at Texas A&M International, 7 p.m.; 16 — at St. Mary’s, noon; 19 — Texas-Permian Basin, 4 p.m.; 23 — at Northeastern State, noon; 28 — Fort Hays State, 4 p.m.; 30 — Incarnate Word, noon-x.
November: 4 — at Midwestern State, 6 p.m.-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference matches.