The wild ride that was the 2018 season for the Northwest College men’s soccer team ended Friday night in Denver, with a 4-2 semifinals loss to division rival Sheridan at the Region IX Tournament.
“It was a close game,” said NWC head coach Bobby Peters. “We did ourselves in — we didn’t challenge for several balls that we could have. We fought hard, that wasn’t the issue. But I think nerves got the best of them that game.”
Both teams’ defenses and keepers were up to the task in the first half, with the Trappers (5-5-2 overall, 3-3-2 in Region IX) and the Generals (7-5-1, 5-2-1) battling to a 1-1 stalemate in the opening frame. Northwest began to lose its form in the second half, however, as Sheridan was able to pull away for the win.
“The game was very hardfought, but in the end they [Sheridan] were able to find the back of the net and we weren’t,” said sophomore Kyle Lamb. “They definitely earned the win.”
“We created a bunch of offensive opportunities throughout the game, we were consistently trying to go after the net,” Peters said. “We scored on set plays, which had been a bane of ours all season. Realistically we went there and competed, but I just think nerves got the better of our guys. We got away from playing our game.”
Sheridan got on the board first off the foot of Bryce Taylor, giving the Generals an early 1-0 lead.
“Sheridan worked the ball down into the corner of our box and made a good move, and our guys didn’t shift and recover properly,” Peters said. “Our backside guys lost track of their marks, and the guy was able to tap it into the back post.”
NWC answered with a score of its own on a penalty kick by Alejandro Fernandes, and the teams went into halftime tied 1-1.
“We worked the ball down into the Sheridan box, and they took down one of our players,” Peters said. “Alex [Fernandes] finished a very good ball.”
Northwest defender Edgar Meza said the team started the first half slow, but was able to play together to make it a game.
“I believe we were a little hesitant the first half,” he said. “We were struggling to find a rhythm with each other, but towards the end of the first half we managed to work the ball up and eventually score to tie the game 1-1 ...”
The Trappers came out flat to start the second half, allowing Sheridan to score two quick goals by Nick Paris and the game winner from Tristan Austin.
The Generals’ second goal came off a corner kick.
“Our guys didn’t keep their form properly, weren’t able to mark up,” Peters said. “It was a pretty easy goal for them.”
Sheridan’s third goal came on an “effort play,” with the ball played down in the corner. Peters said the defender made a good run on the ball but got caught out of position at the tail-end of the play; the goal pushed Sheridan’s lead to 3-1.
“The guy just out-paced Marshall [Rhoades] on an inside run,” Peters explained. “That was a little rough.”
After the Generals’ third goal, Peters made an adjustment to Northwest’s defensive formation, switching to a 4-3-3 in an effort to put more defense on the wings. Off this formation, the Trappers were able to cut the lead to 3-2, again off the foot of Fernandes.
“I switched up the form, and we started playing a little bit — we got down in their zone and started challenging pretty hard,” Peters said. “We won a free kick just outside their box. Alex [Fernandes] lined up and scored one on them, a great near-post shot that he buried right where it needed to go. The keeper wasn’t able to get to it.”
Down just a goal with plenty of time left, Peters said the Trappers went into scramble mode, losing some of their form in the process.
“We were pressing a little bit, a little too hard, but we had to,” he said. “They [Sheridan] weren’t even coming close to the midfield for the last 15-20 minutes, they would just send a long ball and hope to get on the end of it.”
Sheridan’s Keino Davids scored an insurance goal to make the score 4-2 with 15 minutes left, all but ending the Trappers’ shot at a comeback. The Generals’ defense held, and Northwest’s season was over.
“Throughout the game, we had several great opportunities,” Peters said. “We had a couple of looks inside the box where we could have shot it, just a random bounce would give us trouble, [but] we weren’t able to connect. We had several opportunities to look forward, and we just didn’t do it. It was a tough way to end the season.”
Trapper keeper Marcus Olmos had another solid game in net, in what would be the final game of an improbable season for the sophomore. Olmos started the season as an assistant coach and ended it as one of the top goalkeepers in the Region IX North.
“Marcus made several big, big saves for us,” Peters said. “He stopped three shots that looked like they were going in that he somehow got to. He did really well saving us on the backside.”
“Charlie [Carlos Somolinos Bravo] summed it up best, I think,” Peters added. “He said, ‘We played too much with our hearts and not with our heads that game.’ Which I think realistically, that’s what it was ... we made it harder on ourselves.”
“We didn’t play to our potential as a team that game. [It] felt like we had the potential to win the region and to lose was heartbreaking,” he said. “But I’m proud of the season we had, unforgettable moments. To be able to play one more year was a blessing. I’m sad that it’s over.”
The loss closed the book on the 2018 season for the Trappers, one that had hurdles from the outset. But despite a host of new players, multiple injuries and a new coach, it would be hard to consider the campaign anything but a success, as the Trappers advanced deeper into the playoffs than they have in years.
“I thought the season went really well, despite the many obstacles the team had to face,” said sophomore forward Jarrett Shrum. “Throughout the season I thought we grew as a team and became closer — I think that it showed on the field. By the end of the season we were playing really well, but we just fell short.”
For Meza, it was a season of learning experiences, culminating in a late-season run that no one outside the program expected.
“Overall, this was a season I’ll never forget,” he said. “From struggling to win home games to beating the No. 1-seeded team in the south, I enjoyed every minute of the season with all of my teammates.”
Peters told the team they should be proud of what they accomplished, and thanked them for making his first season at NWC a memorable one.
“I told them I know they’re going to realize they could have gone further, and it will be tough for awhile,” he said. “But I want them to focus on the good things. It was a great experience and they grew as a team. Thet beat tough teams at the time they needed to beat them. It just wasn’t meant to be in this last game.”
Laramie County Community College won the Region IX title Saturday with a 2-0 win over Sheridan.