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NWC soccer: Vision becomes reality

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Northwest College goalie Becca Sangster stretches for a ball during Tuesday afternoon drills. Sangster and her 17 teammates will officially usher in soccer as a sport at NWC when they face Dodge City (Kan.) this Friday. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik

NWC soccer teams open Friday at Dodge City

What began as a vision on paper just eight months ago will step onto the pitch in the flesh this Friday as the Northwest College Trappers open their first-ever soccer seasons. The program was created last December by a vote of the Northwest College Board of Trustees.

“It feels like it has been a long time coming,” said Trapper soccer coach Rob Hill, whose life has actually been more of a whirlwind since learning early this year that he had been tabbed to build the Northwest College programs from the ground up.

Over the few months since, Hill has watched countless hours of film and made hundreds of phone calls to coaches around the state and country in order to recruit 38 players —18 women and 20 men —to form the college's first-ever soccer roster.

The members of Northwest College's debut soccer recruiting class came together for the first time just three weeks ago. On Friday, they'll take the field at Dodge City, Kan., for the school's first official contest. The Trappers will also play Cisco College out of Texas in a Saturday game, also in Dodge City.

“It was difficult to start from scratch,” said Hill. “The hardest part was getting started. Once the players got here, the language of soccer is universal. It speaks for itself and it became more about trying to identify a style of play that will suit our strengths as we come together as a team.

“It will be nice to get these first couple of games out of the way and see the areas we need to work on,” said Hill. “It will be nice to see where we fit in among other junior college teams.”

As with any competitive sports program, the wins and losses will obviously carry significance throughout the regular season.

For a program entering its first season, however, Hill is aware the equation extends beyond the tick marks in the W and L columns.

“They're all tests,” Hill said of his teams' games. “We're looking to establish ourselves as a legitimate sport and as legitimate teams. To do that, we have to get better every game. We have to improve every game. Just like every other team, we're preparing for our regional tournament and looking to peak as a team at just the right time.”

The Trapper teams have already had a few tests in the form of three scrimmage games. The first of those, against Rocky Mountain College in Billings, proved to be a bit of an eye opener.

“For a lot of the kids, that was the first time they'd seen, much less played in a college soccer game, and it was an eye-opener,” said Hill. “Our women's team was getting knocked down. They were getting kicked. It wasn't dirty. That's just how physical the game is at this level. It's a part of the game and it showed them quickly that they need to keep that collegiate level mentality.”

With several local players on the roster — the women's team features five former Powell High School players and one former Cody player while the men's team features three former Cody Broncs and one Powell Panther — Hill notes the NWC soccer programs have been receiving quite a bit of interest from the region.

“There's been a lot of excitement that I've sensed,” said Hill. “We had dinner the other night with the Yellowstone Fire. People have traveled to watch us at our scrimmages. I think just coming off the World Cup this summer, people are accustomed to watching soccer and they're interested in seeing a new sport at the college.

“Most people in this area have never seen soccer at this level in person. I think they'll be surprised by how physical it is and how good the athletes are. I'm excited for them to get that opportunity.”

That opportunity will have to wait for another week —the Trappers don't play a home game until Thursday, Sept. 2, when the men's team faces Laramie County. The NWC women won't appear at home until Sept. 16, also against Laramie County.

“This weekend we'll find out where we're at,” said Hill. “The teams I put out will be what I consider to be our best team. We'll do less subbing than we did in the scrimmages and we'll see what happens. After three weeks together, we get to find out how we do.”

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