By Kevin Castaneda
By Kevin Castaneda
There are those who would look at the RCC men’s soccer team season record, and would not hesitate in calling it a failure. A season in which they have only been able to achieve victory once.
But if you look closely at a team filled with all freshmen, except for one sophomore, Jesus Munoz, then you see a team which had more victories than the win and loss column may show.
We can take an example from professional sports to help explain this season a little better. Professional sports always has those few teams that look at the season as a rebuilding year. A season to train talent, and let them experience the game, so they become more adequate players.
This was not any different when it came to RCC this season. Many of these guys have been playing for most of their lives. But this year was going to be a different experience, in which they needed to rebuild a team, and also build team chemistry.
“These guys were all inexperienced when they came into the season. They had no college experience, and had not played with each other. Each game they learned something new, and improved on it as the season rolled along,” said coach Francisco Melgarejo.
Besides the players learning and experiencing something new, the coaching staff was also taking its own notes and learning from their players. They were the ones teaching these guys new aspects of the game they love so much. Correcting their mistakes, while also applauding their accomplishments.
“These guys are all young. My whole team is filled with freshmen who are ready to play, but still need some direction. Guys are still making some personal mistakes, but are improving, and have improved as the season has gone on,” Melgarejo said.
“They play against guys who are experienced in college soccer, and are into their twenties already,” Melgarejo said when asked if he could elaborate on his feelings for this kind of season.
You could see the players improving as each game took shape throughout the season. Goalkeeper Pablo Isais was honing his defensive skills and goal saving abilities. Captain Ryan Myers was showing why leadership was bestowed upon him, and why his skills demonstrated that he deserved that band around his arm. Forwards Brent LeBlanc, and Anthony (Tony) Magana, improved their attacking ability. The team grew closer together, and played a better team soccer.
During their most recent game, versus Santa Ana College, they showed their improvements. The Dons came out striking first with a goal in the 15th minute. But instead of dropping back, like they did in the beginning of the season, the Tigers came back to attack.
As the 21st minute rolled around, RCC approached the goal with a great attack. Captain Ryan Myers centered a kick to forward Brent LeBlanc. LeBlanc pulled his 6’2,” 175-pound fame into the air, and headed the ball beautifully into the right side of the net.
Santa Ana didn’t really wait that much to attack back, as they made their second goal of the match at the 24th minute. RCC would wait for their second goal, but the defense soon stepped it up for the rest of the half. That is until the Dons scored their third goal in the 43rd minute.
Which showed why the Tigers still needed those personal improvements to be successful. It’s those little mistakes that come back to hurt them, and eventually lead to other teams scoring on them.
But RCC didn’t end the 2nd half without a fight to make this a real scoring affair. The Tigers were awarded with a penalty kick in the 45th minute of the half. Co-captain Max Ebegbune kicked in the 2nd goal for RCC to make the score at the half, 3-2.
RCC would only score once more in the second half. A goal by forward Brent LeBlanc, his second of the game. Santa Ana went on to win by a score of 6-3.
It was another tough loss for a team that played so well throughout the whole game. But you must always look at perspective when it comes down to a rebuilding season. Santa Ana is a team who has only lost one game this whole season. The Tigers were able to keep up, and stay in contention for almost the whole game.
“It was a tough loss. A lot of their goals came off of our personal mistakes. But they are a tough team, and we were able to keep up with them. We demonstrated the ability to come back and attack,” said forward Brent LeBlanc, when asked on his thoughts on the game.
Those words showed to perfection what this season has been like for the Tigers. They are learning how to stay with it, and use their talents to improve their own personal games.