Going into last week’s regular-season finale against Western Wyoming, the Northwest College men’s soccer team knew if it was going to make a strong statement heading into the postseason, this was the last game to do it.
“That was a must-win game for us because we hadn’t won a home game all season,” said defenseman Kyle Lamb, a sophomore and team captain. “It was our last home game as sophomores and for the season. Going into the game we stressed positivity and it showed throughout the game.”
Behind an attacking offense and an aggressive and stingy midfield and defense, the Trappers exploded for five goals en route to a 5-1 win and a season sweep of the Mustangs. The win gives Northwest a 4-4-2 record on the season (3-3-2 in the Region IX North), duplicating last year’s win total.
“We worked hard the past few days [before the game], working on a few things on how to probe the defense and create opportunities,” said NWC interim head coach Bobby Peters. “We worked on a few attacking options, and the guys really started to see the lanes off of it. It was a good win to have.”
The Trappers wasted no time in attacking the Mustang zone, peppering WWCC’s keeper Nick Kautzman with seven shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the game. Northwest’s Jarrett Shrum finally snuck one by Kautzman in the game’s 18th minute on an assist by Jonathan Reynoso for his first goal of the season. It was a special moment for the sophomore, playing his final game at Trapper Field.
“Scoring a goal in my final home game was more than I could have asked for,” Shrum said. “It makes me feel like all of the team’s efforts this season had finally paid off.”
Fellow sophomore Sergio Santamarina, the team’s leading scorer this season, scored what would be the game-winner 12 minutes later, finding the back of the net on an assist by Edgar Meza.
“Once our guys found the back of the net, they kept going at it,” Peters said. “They were making the dynamic runs, they were probing Western’s defensive line, they were timing their runs on the wings. It’s really what you wanted to see coming into this game.”
The Trappers scored once more in the first half on a nice shot from 35 yards out by Alejandro Fernandes off a pass from Santamarina. With the score 3-0 at the break, Peters said the team was playing like he knew all season they were capable of.
“That’s the type of team we have; we can score goals,” he said. “We had points in the season where people tried to do their own thing. It’s a team game, and in that aspect, we really had to work on it. Getting the players in the right mindset can take time, but when they get it, good things can happen.”
Northwest continued to attack the Mustangs’ defense, scoring twice more in the second half. Carlos Solomonis-Bravo found the back of the net just three minutes into the second half on an assist by Shrum to push the score to 4-0. Rennan DaSilva would score the Trappers’ final goal at the 60-minute mark, a nice header into the net off a cross by Shrum. Peters then emptied his bench, giving his reserve players an opportunity to get some much-needed playing time.
“After that last goal, I had an entirely different squad in the game,” Peters said. “I was giving players who don’t get as many minutes some time to get on the field and improve their game. They worked really hard — I saw a lot of good things.”
The Mustangs finally got on the board in the game’s final minute, the result of a defensive breakdown that allowed Western’s Justin Pfeil to score on a free kick flick. The goal denied Trapper keeper Marcus Olmos a clean sheet for his final game at home.
“It was just that moment where they didn’t execute the way they were supposed to,” Peters said of his defenders on the play. “It ended up being a really easy shot for them. Realistically, I look at it as a 5-0 game — the one goal, the guys know what they can fix on it, they just haven’t had enough reps on it throughout the season to be able to execute perfectly every time.”
The Trappers have eight sophomores on this year’s squad, who were recognized before the game. Peters said the team will be “losing a lot of leadership on that front,” but the work they’ve done all year with the freshmen has been instrumental in the team’s success.
“The freshmen are starting to learn the same attributes of leadership, as well as just being quality people,” he said. “The sophomores will be missed.”
The Trappers will open the Region IX tournament on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado.