It wasn’t the most successful season a year ago for the Northwest College men’s soccer program, though it started out in fine fashion.
After rolling through the first half of the schedule with six wins against just two losses, the Trappers were feeling pretty good about themselves — a little too good, as it turned out.
“We had a couple of real good wins in there and the guys thought they had won something,” said head coach Rob Hill. “The enemy then became complacency and we started to lose, and once we started losing, it snowballed from there.”
The result was seven straight losses to close out the regular season, though the team was still alive in the NJCAA Region IX postseason, which meant a trip to take on Utah State University- Eastern in the quarterfinals.
“It was tough coming off seven straight losses and taking a nine-hour drive to play,” Hill said. “We were not in a real good position to play well.”
And yet the talent seen early in the season almost delivered as the playoff match went to bonus time in a scoreless tie before the host Golden Eagles won it on a penalty kick.
As close as they came to continuing, Hill looks back and realizes that the team wasn’t quite the team he had hoped for.
“We really didn’t fully come together as a team, rather a bunch of individuals and some cliques within the team,” he said. “We had the talent, but talent doesn’t always make a team and we didn’t really fight for one another.”
One of the things that is endemic to junior college sports, however, could turn out to solve a lot of the disjointedness of a season ago as turnover hit the team in a big way, with just six players returning.
This gave Hill ample chance to reshape his squad into more of a team.
“I really feel like we’ve already got the makings of a solid team,” he said. “We already had a real good outing in a scrimmage with Rocky Mountain with 10 freshmen starting and they showed that they are really intelligent players.”
The 2016 roster sees a healthy mix of international and American players, split right down the middle.
“We have 12 U.S. players and 12 international,” Hill said. “We have an Irish player, one from Spain, one from Trinidad and Tobago and nine British players.”
And while the mix certainly adds to the intrigue, the meshing of all the different cultures could well be a challenge.
“There are always things to work on with players coming from so many different places and it would be easy for them to just kind of stay with those that are from where they are from,” Hill said. “And I did my homework on these guys and a common trait is that they all like to play good soccer at a high level, which I think should help them all mesh as a team.”
Time will tell if the revamping of the team will lead to greater successes, and fans will be able to get a look on Monday, Aug. 29, when the University of Mary comes to town for the Trappers first home match at 2 p.m.
LADY TRAPPERS REVAMPED AS WELL
Much like the men’s soccer team of a year ago, the Lady Trappers of the pitch met their share of hardships last season, literally limping across the finish line with a 5-8-1 record as a season of attrition got the better of them.
“We started out the season a little short as we lost a couple of my international recruits,” coach Hill said. “We also had injuries along the way to the point where by the latter part of the season we probably only had 14 fit bodies able to play.”
As talented as any team might be, a lack of able-bodied athletes will take its toll in a game so predicated on endurance as soccer.
“It just really effected our depth, which hurt us as the season went on,” Hill said. “Even with that, we were in position to make it to the NJCAA semifinals if we had won our last match, which we ended up tying.”
But just as the case with the men’s team, a massive roster turnover took place, with just five returning players and 15 newcomers added to the list, including five British players and one Japanese player.
“With recruiting, a lot of it gets going around December and January,” Hill said. “I made sure to get started early, beginning in November and even late October, to start establishing relationships.”
Which paid off, both in numbers and talent, which has Hill excited with what he sees.
“We’ve obviously got better depth and we have a lot more technically efficient players, which allows you to do more things tactically,” Hill said. “In short passing, long passing and controlling the ball, we haven’t had that across the board in years past like I think we do now.”
Still, with so many newcomers, getting the talent to come together is a process that will take time.
“We played against an excellent Rocky Mountain team last week and it was a real eye-opener for the girls,” Hill said. “It showed us some of the things we need to work on more, and with the intelligence of the players we’ve got, we should be able to fill in those gaps.”
The Lady Trappers will face the University of Mary at Noon on Monday, Aug. 29, for their first match of the season.