The Western Nebraska Community College men’s and women’s soccer teams will be vying for a spot in the final four of the regional tournament as the two squads enter the Region IX playoffs with first-round games on Saturday.
The WNCC women, who enter with an impressive 12-3 record, enter regionals as the No. 3 seed and will host Northeastern Junior College at Landers Soccer Complex on Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m.
While the women host a first-round contest, the Cougar men will hit the road for a contest on Saturday against Trinidad State Junior College. The men’s contest starts at 2 p.m.
Rafaela Passos said the Cougar women are staying focused when they hit the pitch Saturday against NJC, a team they beat last weekend 3-0.
“This week we are working to fix our mistakes that we have done in the last game,” the sophomore captain from Brazil said. “We are working also on our mentality to keep focus to do our job on the field Saturday.”
WNCC has faced NJC twice this season, winning 3-1 at Sterling in a non-conference game before downing the Plainswomen last Saturday at Landers 3-0. In that game, the Cougars received goals from Bethany Fuchs, Destiny Mueller, and Ashley Ruiz.
The Cougars are working hard this week to fix the mistakes from Saturday’s game to move on in the regional tournament. WNCC has won two Region IX women’s soccer regional titles, the first one in the inaugural season in 2003 and the second one in 2008 when they defeated Laramie County Community College.
WNCC’s 12-win season is the second most wins in school history. The 2003 team went 19-1 and earned a top 10 NJCAA ranking at the end of the season.
Passos said the team knows what they need to do to pick up a win this weekend.
“To win Saturday, the team needs to put all our effort we have because it will be a completely different game,” she said. “Every team gets better during playoffs.”
The Cougar women are just one of four first-round games with the winners heading into the semifinals the following weekend in Denver.
Other first-round contests will have No. 5 Trinidad State traveling to No. 4 Sheridan, No. 7 Western Wyoming heading to No. 2 Gillette College, and No. 8 Otero taking on No. 1 Laramie County.
The winner of the Region IX tournament will host the North Plains District championship beginning Nov. 8 against winners from Region 11/13 (Iowa Western region). The winners of the eight district finals and four at-large teams will qualify for the national tournament Nov. 18-23 in Melbourne, Florida.
Passos said the Cougars have had a nice season, but they have a goal of winning regionals and going to nationals.
“We had a nice season,” Passos said. “The team work was great and now the team is more bonding to play hard in the playoffs. We are keeping our focus in the playoffs to achieve our goal, which is to win the championship.”
Just like the women, the men’s tournament will be a battle.
The men’s bracket will have No. 5 WNCC at No. 4 Trinidad State, No. 7 Sheridan at No. 2 Northeastern Junior College, No. 6 Gillette at No. 3 Otero, and No. 8 Central-Columbus at No. 1 Laramie County.
The Cougar men enter regionals with a 9-6 record and will face a Trinidad State team that is 6-7-1. The two squads faced each other in September with the Trojans winning at Trinidad 3-1.
The winners of the first-round games will advance to the semifinals the following weekend in Denver at Metro State University. The winner of Region IX will then host a district playoff on Nov. 9 against the winner of the Region 11/13 region (Iowa Western region).
The eight district champions and four at-large teams will then earn spots at the men’s national tournament Nov. 18-23 in Tyler, Texas.