The wait is over.
Not just for Angelina College soccer fans, but also for the program’s head coach as well.
Nataki Stewart was named AC’s head soccer coach for both the women’s and men’s teams in February of 2020. Just two weeks later, a worldwide pandemic shut down everything, meaning Stewart – along with his assistant coaches Paul Murillo and Alex Meany – has yet to coach his first game for his Lady Roadrunner and Roadrunner teams.
No wonder he’s excited about this week’s schedule release for the upcoming 2021 season.
“I can tell you, just getting the question (about the schedule) gives me thrills,” Stewart said. “We’re very excited. We’ve waited quite a while for this. We’ve had a year to plan, and to recruit some good people into our program. We can’t wait to showcase what we can do.”
The season schedule includes eight home stands, with each of those consisting of women/men doubleheaders. To ensure fans have the best opportunity to see his teams in action, Stewart set all match times for 5:00 p.m. for the Lady Roadrunners and 7:30 p.m. for the Roadrunner men.
“One of the big pieces for us in returning is the community involvement,” Stewart said. “We wanted to set our game times at appropriate times to allow our community – especially our young fans – to see us play.”
AC’s teams will open the season on the road at Dallas College-Mountain View on Thursday, Aug. 19 before hosting the home opener against Hill College on Thursday, Aug. 26. Other home stands include Aug. 28 (Jacksonville College, conference opener), Sept. 4 (Northeast Texas Community College), Sept. 11 (Blinn College), Sept. 15 (Tyler JC), Oct. 6 (Paris JC), Oct. 13 (Navarro College women, Coastal Bend CC men) and Oct. 23 (Trinity Valley CC). Stewart said he’s currently looking to add at least one more home slot to the schedule.
AC plays all home matches at Jase Magers Field on the Lufkin High School campus.
For now, the home opener against Hill College is generating a little more excitement as it will mark AC athletic programs’ return to competition.
“Our first home game at Jase Magers will be an ‘Orange Out’ game, and we’d love to see all our fans dressed out in orange,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a very competitive game. Hill’s program is very good and nationally recognized. I can tell you that our fans will be proud of the product we’re putting on the pitch this year.”
Stewart said the year away from live competition wasn’t wasted; he and his staff spent the time recruiting and planning the program’s return. Mostly, he wants to make sure his teams are ready to compete immediately, and he’s anxious to introduce his players to the community.
“No matter what we’ve gone through, at the end of the day, we still have to play the games at a high level, and our kids understand the ‘Angelina Way’,” Stewart said. “They’ve taken the time off to get better. Some stayed with us throughout this past year, and that shows their level of trust in what we’re building here.
“We’re bringing high-character, competitive players who are winners into our program. That’s what our community is going to get.”
To view the entire AC soccer schedule (along with periodic updates), visit www.angelinaathletics.com.