CNCC women’s team returns to Craig as Spartan soccer teams build for season
Now in its fourth year, the Colorado Northwestern Community College soccer program sees familiar and new faces alike as the Spartans strive to make this season different from those that came before it.
CNCC has kicked off practices for the upcoming fall as Doug Seigle returns as the head of the men’s team and Kyle Kazemi joins the Craig campus to revitalize the women’s program.
Kazemi is originally from Arvada, where he grew up before moving on to Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota as a player in the sport for four years.
He later served as a coach for Ralston Valley High School, as well as briefly coaching with the women’s soccer staff for University of New Mexico before working in an administrative role for Concordia for three years.
“I was doing a lot of student recruitment for the alma mater,” he said.
Besides the position at CNCC, Kazemi said the prospect of small-town life appealed to him in coming to Craig.
“I was a city kid and a Front Ranger, but every time I’ve been on the Western Slope, I really loved — Grand Junction, Gunnison, Crested Butte, those sort of places,” he said. “The openness of it really pulled me out here.”
Moreover, the prospect of being back in a teaching function as a coach was what Kazemi wanted.
Still, recruitment has been a big part of the job since he signed on with CNCC in late May, and as a result, the women’s roster boasts 16 players.
Though the women’s program was on hiatus in 2018 following low athlete numbers and an abrupt coaching change, Kazemi has brought in players from Greeley, Denver, and Salt Lake City, as well as New Mexico and California.
He also recently signed recent Moffat County High School graduates Larissa Payan and Naomi Magallanes Torres, plus bringing back Nayeli Perez Rodriguez, who had signed with the Spartans last year before the women’s program was placed in limbo.
“Watching the men and women interact has been my favorite part so far, watching that community start to form,” Kazemi said.
While the two soccer teams inevitably cross paths, the two coaches each have their own systems, yet Seigle stated Kazemi — the younger of the two — provides an extra boost of positivity he needs, whereas Kazemi has benefited from Seigle’s experience.
“I’m a bit of a skeptic, but it’s hard for me to be negative when he’s so positive. I haven’t seen him get upset yet, but if he does, I can be there to help him. Our personalities are different, but they got along so well, he makes me a better coach,” Seigle said. “We’re both doing our own thing, but it’s always, ‘hey, what do you think?’ to each other. That’s the huge advantage to me from last year. I’m confident in myself as a coach, but it always helps to get reassurance from someone else with what I’m doing and sees things how I see it.”
Seigle began as the men’s head coach in summer 2018, the third coach in as many years for the still-growing program.
Besides the inherent difficulty of keeping a steady stream of athletes for a two-year college, a small roster each season has not helped when injuries play a part, and an as-yet winless record for the Spartans has shown how many bumps the program has had since starting in 2016.
Still, Seigle has 19 committed to hit the field, among them at least two returners from the previous season, as well as MCHS Class of 2019 athletes Victor Silva, Josh Pando and Pedro Romero.
“I’m happy with our numbers. We’ve got a little more depth and multiple players at each position. If we have a few injuries, we won’t be hurting like we were last year,” he said. “A lot of them are new guys, but I’ve spent a lot more time getting to know them and their families, so I know them on a personal level.”
Fields are locked in for the season at Loudy-Simpson Park, but Seigle and Kazemi and their teams will meet on a neutral ground this week with scrimmages in Steamboat Springs against Laramie County Community College.
Friday, Aug. 16
9 to 11 a.m. — Ages 5 to 11; 12:30 to 4 p.m. — Ages 12 to 18
Loudy-Simpson Park, 600 S. Ranney St.
— Registration is $25 per athlete, with discounts possible for families with multiple kids. The camp will provide a Spartan water bottle for each player. Players must bring their own cleats or tennis shoes and shin guards. Players are also encouraged to bring their own ball if possible. Registration is due by Aug. 14. For more information, visit cncc.edu/community-education or contact 970-824-1109 or Leigh.Sokol@cncc.edu.
Following that, teams will oversee the Spartan Soccer Camp Friday at Loudy-Simpson.
“That clinic should let us have one last connection with the community and get kids wanting to come see games,” Seigle said.
The first official home game will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 against Western Wyoming Community College. CNCC will travel to a WWCC-hosted tournament the following weekend in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The opener for Scenic West Athletic Conference play is Sept. 12 in Reno, Nevada against SWAC’s newest member school Truckee Meadows Community College.
Besides a clean slate against a first-year team in the conference, Seigle anticipates the struggles the Spartans have had in recent years will help keep the guard down against schools they’ve faced in the past who might underestimate them.
“I’m hoping that will mean we can pull off a big upset win,” he said. “Getting that first franchise win will make us feel like we’re really a part of this now.”
Also, he expects a different mentality for this season among his squad.
“This year we’ve got a much better attitude. Last year, we were our own worst enemies when things went bad, we turned on each other, and it was not a fun environment to be in,” he said. “Last year kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m excited to prove we’re not the team we were last year.”
Seigle has also aimed to be realistic with new and returning players about expectations. While he doesn’t anticipate a complete 180 from last year, he believes a worthwhile outcome will follow providing he and athletes put in the work.
“We can build something here and make soccer be something important here,” he said. “The true character of a person doesn’t come out when they’re winning, it’s when they’re losing, so we’ll see what happens when we hit those rough times. So far so good. It’s a good group, and I’m excited for what they potentially could do.”