Five Trappers also received post-season honors, as Ryan Tyrer, Luke Holt, Daniel Lobera, Robert George and Aaron Kovac were named to the Region IX North All Conference teams.
“I’m a little shocked,” Rodrigues said of the recognition. “I’m also very honored; I really didn’t expect it, to be fair.”
Taking over a new team is never easy, for a coaching staff or the players. Rodrigues credited his returning sophomores for making the transition a smooth one, as well as helping the freshmen buy into the new system.
“It all goes back to the team,” Rodrigues said. “Credit to my captains, and credit to the team — they bought in. Coaches always talk about how some teams lack on-the-field leadership. I was very blessed this year, because the boys just understood hard work. That made my job easy.”
Often described as an animated coach not afraid to dish out a little tough love when warranted, Rodrigues said the team was receptive to his style of coaching, and free of negativity.
“For me to come in and get Coach of the Year, it’s one of those things where I’m very, very proud of the boys,” he said. “And I’m honored by the coaches in the conference; they made the year very memorable for me. I think it was also a sign of how the other coaches respected my team for what we did. Win or lose, my team was always humble and respectful.”
Region IX North All Conference selections
Named to the Region IX North Conference First Team were defenseman Tyrer, goalkeeper Holt and forward Lobera.
Tyrer, a sophomore and team captain from Liverpool, UK, said he was honored by the recognition, but was quick to credit his teammates for the success he’s had in his two seasons at NWC.
“It was great news for me to hear that I got in the all region team again this year, I am proud of myself,” Tyrer said. “But I couldn’t do it without any of my teammates. They got me to the place I am right now.”
Fellow sophomore Holt was a transfer from Wayland Baptist University in Texas, and brought an impressive resume of experience. A native of Kilmarnock, Scotland, Holt credits his season as a Trapper for reigniting his passion for the sport after a less-than-stellar stint at WBU.
Being named All Conference, “means a lot. It’s a nice personal accolade for all the hard work I’ve put in,” Holt said. “[This season was about] falling in love with the sport again, and learning to believe in myself again.”
For Lobera — a freshman from Lander and the team’s leading scorer on the season — being named All Conference was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the team and the coaching staff.
“Being recognized as an All Conference player is an amazing thing for me, and something I’m incredibly grateful for,” Lobera said. “It’s something I would’ve never been able to accomplish without my teammates, my coaches and the overall environment that the school provided for me.”
Named to the All Conference Second Team were Aaron Kovac, a freshman from Roanoke, Virginia, and sophomore Robert George of Casper.
“It means a lot to me that as a team we had multiple players recognized, but to also be part of the recognition makes me more grateful for the past season,” George said, adding, “I will always remember the heart, passion and dedication that our team brought to the field each and every day.”
George, who like fellow sophomore Tyrer had to adapt to a coaching change from his freshman to sophomore season, said the decision to return to NWC this year turned out to be the right one.
“I enjoyed spending time with all the boys this year the most,” George said. “We all clicked right from the start and became brothers. I will always remember these guys and Angela [Rodrigues] and Stan as my family at Northwest. I’m very thankful to have been a part of this crazy journey we all had.”
The 2017 season will go down in the books as one featuring many firsts for the NWC soccer program, including a season sweep of perennial powerhouse Laramie County Community College. Asked their favorite memory of the season, many of the players point to those two games with LCCC.
“Those games will forever be one of my favorite games I have ever played in,” George said. “Especially since we beat them both times with 10 men. It really shows you the character and heart this team had.”
“One memory I’ll always keep with me is our away win against LCCC,” Lobera said. “The character we showed as a team was indescribable, and scoring the winning goal was icing on the cake.”
For Tyrer, the home win against LCCC in particular took on a deeper meaning, as he was able share in a special moment with a friend.
“Earlier on in the week one of my good friends [teammate Jay Younger] had his grandad die; this was a bad time for me to see him down,” Tyrer explained. “It was a tough week for him as he was really close to his grandad and he wasn’t sure [whether] to play, but somehow I persuaded him to play.”
That game would end up as the last game of the season at Trapper Field, and was also the day to honor the sophomores. In their final home game together, Tyrer and Younger were able to combine on a memorable moment.
“The game was getting close, but then we had a corner kick before the end of the half,” Tyrer said. “I put the ball back across the box and Jay was there; he scored. We ended up winning the game, and I’m happy I could help assist Jay to get the winning goal. He made his grandad proud once again.”