This is Sparta: CNCC men’s soccer nets first win in program’s history
Since 2016, it’s been an upward trek for the Colorado Northwestern Community College soccer program, akin to the mythical figure Sisyphus.
But, unlike the eternally-suffering Greek, the Spartans at last got that boulder up and over the hill for bigger and better things.
The fourth season for CNCC soccer opened Saturday with the first win in the history of the program, as the men’s team defeated Western Wyoming Community College 1-0.
A long time coming
A largely even matchup between the Craig team and their Rock Springs opponents had many attempts on goal by either side, but it was a perfect window of opportunity late in the first half that aided the Spartans in their victory.
As CNCC athletes positioned themselves in front of the Mustangs’ box for a corner kick, they were unable to knock the ball into the net on first attempt, yet it nonetheless bounced their way as Silvano Perez charged in, face to face with the WWCC keeper, gaining the score off a header.
A brief but raucous celebration before finishing out the half belied the significance of the goal, the first in an official game for CNCC since 2017, after a waning roster amounted to a long streak of shutouts in the fall 2018 season.
Still, the snap of the scoring slump wasn’t enough for Spartans, who went back onto the field for the latter half ready to run up the score and claim a long-awaited victory.
The former task didn’t quite happen — not for lack of trying as they exhausted the Mustang defense and controlled the game’s flow — but athletes knew they had done something big by the final whistle.
Though the Spartans were technically credited with a pair of wins by forfeit in 2017, a competitive W has eluded the men’s team the past three seasons. And, though only a handful of players have been part of the program since before this summer, they all shared in the glory.
Second-year players and captains Cameron Aragon and Roberto Martinez especially took pride in the finish.
“We were talking earlier about not settling for having a season like last year,” Aragon said. “We came back with a different mindset, different players, the chemistry’s a lot better.”
Coach Doug Seigle noted during the post-game wrap-up that the victory marks a turning point for the program.
“Today was a heart game. We didn’t out-skill them, we didn’t out-talent them. We just outworked them,” he said. “I’m really proud of these guys.”
Back in action
Saturday afternoon didn’t go quite as smoothly for the other Spartan squad, yet fielding a team was in itself a leap from last year.
After a hiatus during the 2018 season, the CNCC women’s team was back on the Loudy-Simpson pitch against WWCC, staying tough against the Mustangs in a 7-0 loss.
The defeat was far from the worst the Lady Spartans have seen — a 26-0 blowout by Salt Lake Community College in 2017 set a benchmark that will hopefully never be reached again — and with a bigger roster this year than the team has ever had, the only place to go is up.
Coach Kyle Kazemi noted that two swift goals by the Mustangs “deflated” CNCC women a bit, yet a 4-0 halftime tally was more of a motivator than anything.
“It’s the first taste of college soccer for them, but that second half was so much better,” he said.
Goalie Farrah Singer anchored the Lady Spartan defense, nearly taken out for the second half after she landed badly on her shoulder while pouncing on the ball, standing up in pain.
“When I went for it, it popped my shoulder out and then popped it right back in,” she said.
Singer was cleared medically for the second half and spent the next 20 minutes making skillful catches, knockdowns and leaps to keep the ball out of goal.
“We saw some really great stuff out of her today,” Kazemi said.
Though the Mustangs started to penetrate the Spartan D again to add three late goals, the experience showed players where they can improve.
“The tough thing was how fast the other team was, we still need to work on our speed,” Singer said. “We still did a good job shutting them down in the second half. We need to work more on staying together as a team in the middle (of the field) because we have great defense, but we lost that shift.”
One of multiple Moffat County High School Class of 2019 athletes to move on to the junior college level, Larissa Payan said she had a new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into the sport.
“It’s definitely faster,” she said. “There’s a lot more conditioning and communication than in high school.”
Looking for more
CNCC teams will next compete at Western Wyoming’s tournament starting Friday, Aug. 30 in Rock Springs.
For Seigle, the win against the Mustangs is a matter of creating momentum.
“It’s great to get that monkey off the back, so now we’ll see if we can get our first winning streak,” he said.
Kazemi, likewise, hopes to see athletes build on their first game.
“For us, it’s putting 45 minutes on top of 45 minutes and making sure we carry what you just saw here into the next round,” he said. “I want to see that same spirit.”
This was the first set of soccer games Candra Robie has overseen since taking the CNCC athletic director role earlier this year, though she was familiar with the program’s struggles at the onset and within the last year.
“Doug’s first day last year was the first day of training camp, so those weren’t his recruits, but he made it work, and now he’s had a year to pick these gentlemen,” she said.
Robie added that although she hired Kazemi later than she would have liked, she refers to him as a “unicorn” for what she considers his near-magical abilities to re-form the women’s program into a functioning team in less than three months.
His coaching style doesn’t hurt, either, she said.
“All day, listening to him on the sideline, he picked out every positive and built on it instead of cutting a kid down,” she said. “That’s the difference.”