In the 78th minute, after the Trappers led for nearly the entire game, Casper College’s Gabriel Gonzales knotted up the Northwest College men’s soccer team’s season opener at 2-2. …
In the 78th minute, after the Trappers led for nearly the entire game, Casper College’s Gabriel Gonzales knotted up the Northwest College men’s soccer team’s season opener at 2-2. But instead of dwelling on Gonzales’ equalizer, NWC’s players took a next-play mentality.
“At that point, it was about staying focused in the game and not blaming each other,” head coach Rob Hill said. “I thought the reaction of the players — without me saying anything — was excellent. It was very much player-driven.”
This mindset paid off.
Less than a minute after Casper found the back of the net, NWC responded with a go-ahead goal from Thomas Mullen in the 79th minute. Seamless passing between Haruki Yamazaki, Tumekie Blackwood, Sam Carling and Keito Komei set Mullen up in good position to sneak one past Casper’s keeper.
Mullen’s score clinched a 3-2 season-opening win, as the Trappers played sound enough defense to keep Casper from notching another goal.
“All credit to the players for their intelligence and movement and ability to get right back after it,” Hill said.
Before Casper tied the match late, NWC played tenacious soccer in the first half. Yamazaki (15th minute) and Martin Gonzales-Gutierrez (39th minute) gave the Trappers an early 2-0 advantage before the break.
Between strong play on both ends, Hill said the first-half margin could’ve been wider.
“We were so dominant in every way,” the coach said. “Our pressure on the ball was outstanding. How we played in transition when we won the ball was so quick and decisive that we could’ve been up three or four.”
Hill said he had trouble singling out individual standouts because of an all-around robust effort from the team. The Trappers shined in every area at some point in the win.
“There were individual moments of brilliance in the back where they defended so well,” he said. “The midfield was so hard-working. And Casper had to deal with speed of press and what we did with the ball when we got it.”
For the most part, the Trappers’ opening game was about as good as Hill could have asked for. But at the beginning of the second half, their play deteriorated.
They allowed a couple of goals, stemming from defensive lapses.
“We didn’t stick with what we were playing,” Hill said. “We can’t sit back early and think the game is won.”
Still, the Trappers escaped with a home win over a quality opponent, thanks to elite play in the prior 45 minutes.
For Hill and his players, they are taking a one-game-at-a-time mentality. But if the opener is any indication, Northwest’s ceiling this year is very high.
“I don’t want them to get complacent,” the coach said. “If they can play like they did in the first half, I think there’s a lot of potential there. But we need to take each game as it comes.”
The Trappers host Otero Junior College and Trinidad State Junior College on Saturday and Monday. Saturday’s tilt begins at 1 p.m., with Monday’s match at 3 p.m.