The Western Nebraska Community College men’s soccer team will open the season this weekend in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with hopes of improving upon last year’s 9-6 record.
To aim for a double-digit win season, the Cougars will sport a team filled with plenty of returners along with a talented group of freshman when they take on Iowa Western Community College on Friday before facing pre-season No. 12 Illinois Central College on Saturday.
Bryan Mejia, one of xx returning players, said the team is ready to get after it.
“The team is looking solid,” Mejia, a sophomore from Lexington, said. “We have a lot of experienced players coming back and I think we are ready to head to Council Bluffs.”
WNCC has been practicing for the past 2 ½ weeks and competed in a couple scrimmages during that time. WNCC defeated the Cougar alumni on Aug. 11 8-1 before facing Colorado Mesa on Sunday.
“In the Mesa scrimmage, we did well,” Mejia said. “We had some miscommunication but will work on it more and build our chemistry.”
A big concern for the Cougars this season is losing several of their top players from a year ago, including Ramses Atahualpa, Silvio Xavier, and Thomas Franze. Without any real stars, Mejia said they are focusing on playing as a team as there is plenty of talent on this year’s team.
“We haven’t really figured out our strength,” Mejia said. “We only have one thing in mind and that is working hard every day at practice.”
What makes this team special is the fact the roster has 24 guys on it and all 24 have talent.
“Right now we don’t have a player that is standing out,” Mejia said. “But, like I said, we don’t have a key player but we will work hard and focus every day to become a key player in every aspect.”
WNCC has 12 returners from a year ago with many that saw considerable minutes. The returning players include Ruam Barbosa from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jack Mann of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Omar Sissoko of Bamaka, Mali, Vinicius Viana of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Gabriel Saturino of Santa Barbara, Brazil, Saul Aguilar of Aurora, Colorado; Bernardo Torres of Blumenau, Brazil, Hector and Arcy Salgado, and Jorge Rojas of Denver, Daniel Matty of England, and Scott Dike of North Platte.
The newcomers also have talent, including four local players. Scottsbluff’s Jerry Escamilla and Luis Martinez, along with Gering’s Carson Wallace and Criztian Avalos look to add depth.
The rest of the newcomers include Vitor Huertas, Gabriel Duarte, Matheus Lima, Washington Junior, and Ygor Brito of Brazil, Esteban Tavira of Aurora, Colorado, and Richard Gurierrez of Denver.
The mix of talent so far has gelled as a whole. Mejia said for them to win, they need to play as a team.
“For us to get that win, we need to work as a team and communicate with each other,” Mejia said. “But, most importantly, we need to play with heart.”
After this weekend, the WNCC men will play two matches in Gillette, Wyoming, against a Montana Club team and Dakota County Technical College. They will then hop into conference play with a road contest at Northeastern Junior College. The first home match is slated for Sept. 21 when Central Community College-Columbus comes to town.
The players are hoping everything falls into place as the players have some lofty goals. Mejia said the focus is just to playing and practicing hard to achieve those goals.
“Our focus this year is to work hard in every practice and try to make it to nationals,” he said.