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Trappers sweep season series

Trappers midfielder Aaron Kovac boots the ball down the pitch Saturday against LCCC at Trapper Field. NWC won the game 2-1, sweeping the season series against the Golden Eagles for the first time in program history. Trappers midfielder Aaron Kovac boots the ball down the pitch Saturday against LCCC at Trapper Field. NWC won the game 2-1, sweeping the season series against the Golden Eagles for the first time in program history. Tribune photo by Don Cogger

On a day when the Northwest College men’s soccer team honored its sophomores, two came up big as the Trappers held off the Laramie County Community College Golden Eagles 2-1.

The Saturday home win gave the Trappers (5-3-1) a season sweep of LCCC for the first time in the program’s history. For first-year head coach Stan Rodrigues, it validated the hard work the team has put in this season.

“The boys were very self-driven, they knew what the game meant for us,” Rodrigues said. “The game had a lot of playoff implications, as well as being a rivalry. Going into the game, with the leadership I have on this team, I just had to let the reins go and let them win it for themselves.”

The first half was all Trappers, as sophomore captain Ryan Tyrer connected on a penalty kick at the 13th minute, the result of a penalty against Daniel Lobera.

“The fact that Daniel was able to get in there and get fouled and Ryan was able to finish gave us a huge boost,” Rodrigues said. “When Ryan scores, it really brings the team up, so that was a huge boost to get that momentum shifted towards us.”

Sophomore Jay Younger found the back of the net 24 minutes later on an assist by Tyrer, scoring what turned out to be the gamewinner and giving the Trappers a 2-0 lead going into the half. The goal was especially memorable for Younger, as the native of Newcastle, England lost his grandfather earlier in the week and wasn’t sure he’d even play.

“It was very emotional,” Younger said after the game. “It was Sophomore Day, and I had lost someone close to me earlier this week. It meant a lot to be able to score a goal for them.”

Rodrigues struggled with whether to play Younger after “a pretty heart-breaking week,” but was ultimately glad he did.

“He was able to hold it down, so that’s what I was really proud of him for,” the coach said of Younger. “He persevered, and the goal meant a lot to him.”

Going into the game, Rodrigues said the team changed some of the tactics they’d used in previous games and moved players to different positions in an effort to match up with LCCC’s athleticism.

“We knew that LCCC probably man-for-man has a little bit more soccer talent and IQ than we do,” Rodrigues said. “So we had to try and beat them to those spots and take what they weren’t going to give us — and that’s exactly what we did.”

Bad blood left over from the two teams’ earlier contest this season spilled over into Saturday’s game with a total of eight yellow cards (four for each team) and one red card (NWC’s Luis Diaz Menendez) between the two.

“It got a bit heated, but we dealt with it,” Tyrer said. “That’s how we do it. We didn’t think we’d get this far this season, but we’re aiming for bigger things. The boys battled hard today.”

Rodrigues said while you never want to see that many warnings, it’s part of the game.

“Technically, there are a lot of things that happen off the ball that you don’t see,” Rodrigues said. “But that’s part of the game the referees can get a hold of if they were able to manage the game earlier. I don’t really blame anybody, it’s just one of those things that happen in the heat of competition, and at the end everybody shook hands and we were good to go.”

Sophomore Luke Holt came up big once again in net for the Trappers, recording six saves on seven shots — including one at the end of the game that would have sent the game into overtime.

“Luke made that save in the dying moments of the game that followed a goal-line save from Jarrett Shrum,” Rodrigues said. “When you see those guys step up and make those things happen, it just keeps adding to the fuel that keeps this team going.”

The Trappers traveled to Rock Springs Wednesday for the last game of the season against Western Wyoming. The team will then look forward to the start of the Region IX Tournament and perhaps hosting a playoff game at Trapper Field. Morale is high, and Rodrigues said the team knows what it has to do to be successful in the post-season.

“The mood among the team has been ultra-positive,” Rodrigues said. “We knew we needed that game against LCCC to keep us in the hunt for hosting a playoff game. Everybody is business right now. They’re proud and happy right now, their hearts are full. But there’s still work to be done.”

The team recognized its sophomores before the game, with each player introduced to the crowd and escorted to midfield by a friend, teammate or family member. Robert George, Holt, Carlos Felgueroso, Menendez, Tyrer, Jun Ukemori, Younger, Travis Nation and Danny Merritt displayed leadership on and off the field, according to Rodrigues, and were integral to the team’s success.

“Walking into a new team, you never really know — especially with the older guys from last year — what they like and what they don’t like,” Rodrigues explained. “But overall, the leadership of the sophomores has been huge, to the point where Ryan [Tyrer] and Robert [George] and Jay [Younger] and everybody else just bought into the program. They want to leave a legacy here.”

Calling the team “hyper-focused,” Rodrigues said the sophomores have kept the team together.

“It’s a true family out there,” he said.

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