Northwest Keeper Holt locks down Pronghorns for second win of season
After settling for a tie against Sheridan, the Northwest College’s men’s soccer team got back into the win column with a 3-0 win against the Pronghorns in Gillette.
“I don’t know if the score is truly indicative of the game,” Trappers head coach Stan Rodrigues said of the Friday matchup. “Gillette had a couple of very good chances to put a goal or two on the board, but our boys scrambled and were able to recover defensively. And frankly, at times, Gillette just missed.”
Freshman midfielder Johnny Varian scored first for the Trappers, off an assist by Carlos Felgueroso. Forward Jay Younger found the back of the net next, with an assist by Aaron Kovac. Varian closed out the scoring with his second goal, off a corner kick, giving NWC (2-1-1) its second win of the season.
“We had talked all week about what travel does to teams,” Rodrigues said. “When you first get off that bus after being on it for three or four hours, it can negatively affect your play, especially in an intense rivalry. Gillette has nothing to hang their heads about, they’re a very good team and they have some very good pieces. They’re going to be a contender in the years to come.”
Keeper Luke Holt, a sophomore transfer from Kilmarnock, Scotland, had a stellar outing in goal, turning back everything Gillette threw (or kicked) at him. That included a stop on a penalty kick with just seconds left to play, preserving the shutout.
“Luke [Holt] saving the penalty kick with 30 seconds left was huge,” Rodrigues said. “That secured the clean sheet, which is very important for us in terms of tie-breakers and stuff like that. Luke is always a gentleman in the net.”
Rodrigues said there were a lot of firsts for the team in the Gillette game including strides made in the passing game. Players sidelined by injury are now getting healthier, adding another dynamic to the team as they move forward.
“Where we were four weeks ago, we’re much stronger and united now than what we were,” Rodrigues said. “I believe that we’re just going to keep getting stronger.”
The Trappers also have a pair of players now cleared to play in freshman midfielder Malachy Sundstrum and Carlos Somolinos. Both players made an impact against Gillette, as did Daniel Lobera, who returned from a one-game suspension for a red card.
“We just brought Carlos in from Spain,” Rodrigues said. “He’s gotta get fit, but he’s starting to do the right things. Our attack is getting much better. Having Danny Lobera back helped us — he feels bad because he didn’t score — but he creates a wave of energy that we need.”
The Trappers travel to Laramie this weekend for a conference game against the Golden Eagles. Laramie County Community College is in a rebuilding year of sorts, but 0-6 record notwithstanding, Rodrigues said LCCC is always tough to beat. To be successful, the Trappers need to keep up their intensity and limit their mistakes.
“This weekend is going to be a big game for us,” Rodrigues said. “We’re playing a team that is historically the best team in the region in Laramie ... The big picture is we respect Laramie and all they’ve accomplished.”
Rodrigues said one of the benefits of having a young team is the naïveté they bring to rivalry games: It’s hard to be intimidated when you don’t worry about past histories.
“We’re not aware of what can hurt us or what’s dangerous,” he said. “We’re just going to play to our strengths, and hope that’s enough.”
A third of the way through the season, Rodrigues said the team is beginning to believe in his system, and, more importantly, in each other.
“I know I keep saying it, but it’s hard for me to think of a team I’ve had in the past that is as positive and as enjoyable as this group. They’re enjoying their football,” he said. “To be fair, there is a business side to college athletics, but there’s another side where they can be kids again; they play because they love it.”