Trappers Lose 5-1 In First Round Of Regions IX Playoffs
A season of memorable highs and disappointing lows came to an end Saturday for the Northwest College men’s soccer team, as the Trappers dropped the opening game of the Region IX playoffs 5-1 against Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff.
The loss closes the book on a season that brought a number of firsts to the NWC soccer program, including the introduction of a new head coach in Stan Rodrigues and a season sweep of perennial powerhouse Laramie County Community College. An Oct. 11 loss in the Region IX-North title game to Western Wyoming cost the Trappers (5-5-1) a home playoff game, however, and may have led to a bit of a letdown on Saturday.
“It just really didn’t play out for us,” Rodrigues said. “When the game started, I felt like the boys were pretty focused. Sometimes there are things that are just out of your hands and other things that aren’t.”
The game was scoreless until the 16th minute, when Lawan Abary gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick — a play Rodrigues found to be suspect.
“There was a foul outside the box, which I felt was pretty clearly outside the box, and the guy [who was fouled] dove into the box,” Rodrigues said. “The referee picked up the ball and put it inside the box, gave them the first penalty kick goal. That’s kind of how the day went.”
The Cougars scored again less than a minute later as Silvio Xavier found the back of the net. Western Nebraska would take the 2-0 lead into halftime. The Trappers would have the wind in the second half, but were unable to take advantage. The Xavier/Abary show continued for the Cougars as each notched another goal at the 52nd and 55th minutes to give Western Nebraska a commanding 4-0 lead.
“The boys tried, we missed two 1v1s,” Rodrigues explained. “Then we missed another goal that was definitely a goal that the referee and the linesman should have called.”
“In all fairness, there was a little bit more stacked up against us, and to give credit to Western Nebraska, they just kept coming at us,” the coach said. “They were playing very well, and we had some miscues, and that’s what happens in a playoff game when you’re not used to that next-level gear.”
The Trappers managed to spoil the shutout on a Malachy Sundstrom goal with just over 10 minutes to play in the game.
“We were finally able to break through their back line; we were able to follow the ball,” Rodrigues said. “Their goalie had a miscue and Mal [Sundstrom] got in and behind and was able to finish the ball.”
Western Nebraska would finish the scoring, however, as Xavier completed his hat trick to give the Cougars a 5-1 win. Rodrigues said the opportunities were there, the team was just unable to finish.
“There was a lot in the game that made me happy,” he said. “They tried to be resilient, they tried to get back in the game many different times. I believe we had opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize on them.”
Rodrigues said it was a tough lesson for the team, but one he hopes they’ll learn from.
“For the sophomores, it was very hard for it to be their last game,” he said. “For the freshmen, I think it was a reality check that just because you play well during the season doesn’t mean you can go in and hope the same thing is going to work in the playoffs.”
One consolation the Trappers can take from the loss is that none of their Region IX North rivals fared any better: Laramie County, Sheridan and division champs Western Wyoming all fell in the first round of the playoffs.
“I don’t know if it’s a vindication or a sadness,” Rodrigues said of the early exits of the north teams. “Although we had the most lopsided score of all of them, I’d have to say that’s what happens when you play one of the very best teams in the south.”
As for the players that will be returning, Rodrigues told them on the trip home that next season starts now.
“Now we’re looking forward to the next season and what we have to do to capitalize and get better, and what I have to bring in to do that,” Rodrigues said. “I thanked the team for a valiant effort, but on the real side, I felt like I was extremely disappointed in the sense that we really didn’t show our best. That was not the way I had expected us to go out.”
Rodrigues did say he was proud the Trappers were in the hunt for the division’s top spot throughout the season. The coach was also grateful for the knowledge he gained about competing in Region IX.
“It was good for me to kind of get my feet wet, just to see what this conference is like and what other schools are successful with,” Rodrigues said.
The coach added that it will be difficult to replace the leadership and heart of his departing sophomores.
“As much as I’d like to say I could go out and find that same heart, I may not,” Rodrigues said. “I might find more skillful players, I might find more goal scorers, I might find a bunch of different things. But it’s hard to replace the heart of what this team has shown throughout the year.”