Lake Tahoe Community College men determined to reach postseason | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lake Tahoe Community College men determined to reach postseason

Bill Rozak | brozak@tahoedailytribune.com

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Jorge Medina will have a chip on his shoulder the size of a Lake Tahoe mansion when he runs out onto the field Monday for the Coyotes season-opening soccer game.

Lake Tahoe Community College will host American River at 5 p.m., and begin its hopeful march to a Golden Valley Conference title and postseason berth.

The pain of being left out of the playoffs last season is still fresh for the returning sophomores, and the team's fourth-year head coach Nicholas Arbelaez.

The Coyotes seemingly did everything they needed to qualify for the afterlife, but when the playoff seeds were handed out, they were left out of the bracket.

The Coyotes were nationally-ranked periodically throughout the season. They went 13-4-4 overall and were 8-2-2 in the Golden Valley Conference, which left them tied for second place with Feather River, a team that did make the playoffs.

"It was heartbreaking for sure," said sophomore team captain Medina, a Reno native. "It was unexpected. We worked so hard during the season. We played well, we won many big games and at the end, getting screwed over like that wasn't a good feeling at all."

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The 16 returning sophomores can clearly remember Arbelaez walking into the locker room and informing them the season was over.

"It felt like we got cut off too early," said sophomore Lex Merrifield, who graduated from South Tahoe High School in 2017. "We worked our butts off the entire season and to have it end like that was not what we planned."

The determination to better in 2018 was apparent Tuesday afternoon during practice. The Coyotes gave sustained effort and Arbelaez watched his team like a hawk. He praised them for quality and let them know when he needed better.

"Welcome to working your ass off," he said smiling at a freshman defender who was learning his responsibilities.

"For these sophomores, these guys are hungry," Arbelaez said after practice. "They remember what it was like, me saying we didn't get into the playoffs. I think every training session so far this year we have exuded that on the field. We're not settling. We're not OK with how last year finished. They know the work they put in now will pay off in the end. The pain now is nothing compared to what we felt last November."

The sophomores have come together over last year's experience. They have developed a bond centered around effort and heartbreak on the field.

"We're more like a family this year, different than last year," said Medina, who was a second team all-conference player as a freshman. "A lot of sophomores in the starting lineup this year … they have that feeling with them when coach told us we were left out of the tournament. We all have that in the back of our heads, and we'll come out every game with that chip on our shoulder."

Several sophomores will be together in the starting 11, Arbelaez said. He counted nine right off the top of his head who he expects great things from this year including Medina (defender), Merrifield (D), Peter Garrett (D), Jose Estrada (D), Juan Garcia (midfielder), Melvin Mendez (forward), Jose Lopez (F) and Josh Corlett (MF).

The Lake Tahoe roster has 37 names, and all of the players on it will be Arbelaez's for the first time in his tenure.

"I'm excited about this team. They are more together than probably any team in the past," Arbelaez said. "Over the last few years my predecessor brought in a few players and they left this past year. A great foundation was laid, but now we're all local with one international. And local I mean Truckee, Lake Tahoe, Carson, Reno and Vegas."

With most of the Coyotes players from around the region, a lot of them have either played together or against one another for several years. Enemies, or opponents, have become friends and teammates.

"Two of these guys I grew up with playing club," Merrifield said. "Some went to my high school and there were some in the region I played against."

The Coyotes 10-game preseason schedule features a handful of nationally-ranked teams including Mt. San Antonio, West Valley, San Francisco and Las Positas.

There will be some big tests before the Coyotes open conference play Tuesday, Sept. 25 against Shasta at home.

"The schedule is very tough," Arbelaez said. "It will be telling right away if these guys are up for the challenge."

Coyotes 2018 schedule

(Men and women)

Monday, Aug. 27

Men — Soccer: Lake Tahoe Community College vs. American River, 5 p.m., LTCC.

Friday, Aug. 31

Men/Women — Soccer: (men) LTCC vs. West Valley, 5:30 p.m., Mt. SAC Invitational, Walnut. (Women) vs. Mt. SAC, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 2

Men — Soccer: LTCC vs. Mt. SAC, 5:30 p.m., Mt. SAC Invitational, Walnut.

Wednesday, Sept. 5

Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Cosumnes River, 4 p.m., LTCC.

Thursday, Sept. 6

Men — Soccer: LTCC vs. Folsom, 5 p.m., LTCC.

Friday, Sept. 7

Men/Women— Soccer: LTCC vs. Napa Valley, 3 p.m. (men), 5 p.m. (women), LTCC.

Saturday, Sept. 8

Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. San Francisco, 1:30 p.m., Las Positas, Livermore.

Sunday, Sept. 9

Men — Soccer: LTCC vs. CCSF, 11:30 a.m., LTCC.

Friday, Sept. 14

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC at Las Positas, 4:30 p.m. (men), 6:30 p.m. (women), Livermore.

Saturday, Sept. 15

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC at Evergreen Valley College, 4:30 p.m. (women), 6:30 p.m. (men), San Jose.

Tuesday, Sept. 18

Men — Soccer: LTCC at De Anza, 4 p.m., Cupertino.

Friday, Sept. 21

Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. West Valley, 3 p.m., LTCC.

Saturday, Sept. 22

Men — Soccer: LTCC vs. Yuba, 7 p.m., LTCC.

Women — soccer: LTCC vs. Fresno city, 12 p.m., LTCC.

Tuesday, Sept. 25

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Shasta, 2 p.m. (women), 4 p.m. (men), LTCC.

Friday, Sept. 28

Men/Women— Soccer: LTCC vs. Redwoods, 2 p.m. (men), 4 p.m. (women), LTCC.

Tuesday, Oct. 2

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Siskiyous, 2 p.m. (women), 4 p.m. (men), Weed.

Friday, Oct. 5

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Lassen, 2 p.m. (men), 4 p.m. (women), LTCC.

Tuesday, Oct. 9

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Feather River, 2 p.m. (women), 4 p.m. (men), Quincy.

Tuesday, Oct. 16

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Butte, 2 p.m. (women), 4 p.m. (men), LTCC.

Monday, Oct. 22

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC at Shasta, 2 p.m. (men), 4 p.m. (women), Shasta.

Tuesday, Oct. 23

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC at Redwoods, 11 a.m. (women), 1 p.m. (men), Eureka.

Friday, Oct. 26

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Siskiyous, 5 p.m. (men), 7 p.m. (women), LTCC.

Tuesday, Oct. 30

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC at Lassen, 2 p.m. (women), 4 p.m. (men).

Friday, Nov. 2

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC vs. Feather River, 2 p.m. (men), 4 pm. (women), LTCC.

Friday, Nov. 9

Men/Women — Soccer: LTCC at Butte, 12 p.m. (men), 2 p.m., (women).