WNCC men’s soccer team loaded with plenty of talent

WNCC men’s soccer team loaded with plenty of talent
                The Western Nebraska Community College men's soccer team returns 10 players and have a host of talented freshmen as they prepare for the upcoming season in which the expectations are high.

                Last season the Cougars went 5-9-2, but this season Eseah Ingram said the goal is to repeat the success of the 2014 team which went 10-4-3 and won the South Region IX Conference.

                Ingram, a Scottsbluff graduate who helped the Bearcats to a district title, said this team is loaded with talent.

                "We have a lot of talent and the chemistry will come with time," he said. "Right now, we have quite a bit of talent and a lot more guys that can come into a game and the level of the game doesn't necessarily drop. Everyone is working hard and everyone is giving 100 percent effort from what I can see. Plus, we are in a lot better shape than what our team was in last year. We are looking good right now and we have a lot of potential, still it is too early to tell."

                WNCC's talent level comes from 10 returning players from previous teams that should help lead the team.

                "The sophomores bring experience in letting the freshmen know how things work around here and how it is a little bit different from where and how they played," Ingram said. "We bring leadership because we know what coach wants on a daily basis. We know what it takes to be on the field. We are able to help these guys and educate them and it is easier for them to adjust and go out and play soccer."

                The sophomores are led by four Scottsbluff Bearcats. Returning from a year ago are Ingram, Owen Parra, and Jackson Thomas. Also, a part of the Cougar team this year after transferring from Hastings College is Patrick Madden.

                But these four are just part of a talented team. The other sophomores that will make an impact are Adrian Veliz Smith, of Ft. Collins, Colorado; Francisco Gonzales of Fort Morgan, Colorado; Felipe Torres of Brazil; Lawan Abary of Niamey, Niger; Andre Matzuda of Lima Peru, Ade Oshikoya of London, England, and Daniel Becerra of Aurora, Colorado.

                The one weaknesses that it seems is at goalkeeper with the loss of Bryant Velasquez. But WNCC has three talented freshmen goalkeepers that will be battling to be in net. Leading the way is Gering graduate Dan Marshall, along with Juan Garfio of Minatare, and Viktar Kravers of Aurora, Colorado.

                WNCC also has three other Nebraskans on the team with Kearney's Ismael Escalante and Leo Palomo, along with Holdrege's Josue Fernandez.

                The rest of the freshmen on the team include Ramses Chinio of Lima, Peru; Sergio Cruz of Puerto Rico; Lashanger de Costa, Thom Franze, Lucas PinheirerSilvio Xavier, Alan Pinho, and Martin Pinho all of Brazil.

                Ingram said the first day of practice on Thursday showed the intensity of the drills, where the players were giving 100 percent. Competition for positions will be a battle.

                "It is pretty competitive right now," he said. "There is, like me in particular, a lot of midfielders and we have a lot of talented ones with some sophomores and freshmen. Knowing that there is a bunch of good players pushes yourself. I think a lot of the guys on the team are very competitive and they don't want to get beat out; they want to play, too. Only 11 guys can start and only a certain about play once we get into the season. Right now, I think everyone's level is high but we are early in the season."
                The competitive edge will hopefully pay dividends down the stretch with hopes of capturing a regional title. The WNCC men have won only one regional title – in 2003, the inaugural year of the program. Fourteen years later, Ingram said the goal is to get another title.

                "Our goal is to win a Region IX title," he said. "Then win districts and go to nationals and compete for a national title."

                Ingram said the team is looking forward to the season but also the pre-season scrimmages, which will help the team fine-tune what they need to work on for the coming season. WNCC opens pre-season play on Sunday, Aug. 13 when they have their alumni scrimmage followed by the next weekend (Aug. 18-19) when they host Colorado Northwestern and Northwest Kansas Tech in scrimmages.

                WNCC opens the season Aug. 25-26 when they travel to face Gillette College and Sheridan College.

                "We are looking forward to the scrimmages," Ingram said. "Playing games is our favorite, but we know training is important. We are all excited and ready to play. I think it is good to have an alumni game and two scrimmages to see where we are at and what we are good at and what we need to work on and it gives us a little bit more time to fix some things before we get into our season of play."