The Ben McArthur era is set to begin in earnest for the Northwest College men’s soccer team. With the combination of a solid mix of new recruits and returning players, the first-year coach said …
The Ben McArthur era is set to begin in earnest for the Northwest College men’s soccer team. With the combination of a solid mix of new recruits and returning players, the first-year coach said there’s plenty to be excited about.
“Recruiting has gone really well,” McArthur said. “I’ve got 16 returning players and I’ve signed 17 guys, so we’ll have a roster of about 31 or 32 guys when the season starts. So we’re looking forward to that.”
The new coach added that having a large roster will only help the team build on last season’s success, which saw the Trappers advance to the Region IX Tournament semifinals before falling to Sheridan 4-2.
“The whole philosophy is this: Competition breeds success,” he explained. “If you’ve got to compete for playing time, the competition level goes up. I’m a believer in competition; I want these guys to work for everything they get.”
This year’s recruits are an even mix of international and domestic players, including a few from Wyoming and neighboring states.
“The domestic guys, they’re excited to play with some international guys,” McArthur said. “With our Wyoming guys, we looked for players whose best soccer is still ahead of them, so we feel like we have a few of those coming in.”
This year’s Wyoming recruits include Buffalo’s Sawyer Sweckard, a two-time All-State selection for the Bison.
“Sawyer [Sweckard] is a forward — a really tall, strong, athletic guy,” McArthur said. “He’s capable of playing clean soccer, and he’s going to be dangerous with his physical tools.”
Powell’s own Rob Sessions will also be donning Trapper red; Sessions helped guide the Panthers to their first-ever appearance in the 3A State Championship game last spring, coming up short to Worland 2-0.
“Rob Sessions has all the tools, it will just be a matter of how quickly he can adjust to the speed of the college game and how physical it is,” McArthur said. “That will kind of depend on how well Rob can develop.”
Ryan Bevins, a goalkeeper from Colorado Springs, is another recruit McArthur described as a player to watch.
“I think Ryan is a quality player who’s gonna come in and compete for some playing time right away,” he said. “He’s another one who’s tall and athletic, and he’s a leader. He could do pretty well for us.”
Bevins, Sessions and Sweckard “are three of our domestic guys I really like,” the coach said.
On the international side, Pedro Gallardo from Spain will be a strong center midfielder for the Trappers, while South Korea’s Chanhwi Jung is expected to be a presence on defense.
“Both of these guys I feel can come in and raise the level for us,” McArthur said of Gallardo and Jung. “I think these will be guys we can lean on to help keep us in games.”
With 16 players returning for their sophomore season at NWC, McArthur said he’ll look to them to provide the leadership needed to make a run at a Region IX title. Alejandro (Alex) Fernandes from Spain was named to the All-Region IX North team following last season, and McArthur expects a similar performance from the midfielder this year.
“If we can continue to surround Alex [Fernandes] with some quality players, he could have a really nice sophomore year for us,” McArthur said.
Tumekie Blackwood from Jamaica began attending NWC in January and has been working with McArthur all spring and summer.
“He [Blackwood] has been working hard, and he’s fit and acclimated and ready to go,” McArthur said. “Technically he’ll be a freshman in the fall, but he’s been here for a semester and he’s ready to go. I think he’ll be really good for us.”
For McArthur, the transition from coaching at Buena Vista University, a four-year, Division III school to a two-year NJCAA program has been a smooth one so far. He cites the affordability of NWC as one of the reasons he was excited to make the switch.
“Coming from a really expensive, four-year school to an inexpensive junior college, that takes away one element, one hurdle, right away,” he said. “We’re an affordable option for guys to get their soccer career and education started. It’s been a good transition. Luckily, I know a lot of coaches in Wyoming and Colorado just from my past recruiting, so that’s helped me get a jump start on it. We’re already recruiting for 2020, so I feel like I’m getting settled in nicely.”
McArthur said he was fortunate to arrive on campus early, giving him the chance to build relationships with the returning players.
“I was lucky to be able to run two or three weeks of training sessions over the spring,” he said. “I think they [the returning Trappers] all kind of bought in to what I was saying and the direction I wanted to take the program. I was really pleased to keep that many guys. Those guys will be a huge asset to the new players.”
The Trappers don’t officially begin practice until Monday, but most of the team will be in town this week to help out with McArthur’s youth soccer camp, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday. McArthur said he hopes the players will use those few days to get to know each other before they start competing for playing time next week.
“We want the players to form relationships with each other in that regard, and recognize we’re all teammates with the same goals,” he said. “Let’s get those relationships started before we jump into preseason and start kicking each other.”
The first week of official practice will feature plenty of fitness testing, as McArthur is anxious to see who’s been putting in the off-season work. Once he knows what he has to work with, it then becomes about building the team from the ground up.
“We’ll focus that week on laying down the foundation of our defense and how we attack” while also doing some team bonding, he said. “That’s really important to get everyone on the same page, not just on the field, but off as well. We need to continue to build the culture that is Trapper soccer.”