Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer off to fast start
In its first season, the Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer program has hit the ground running. The Coyotes kicked off the 2014 season by knocking defending state champion Hartnell (Salinas), a result that led to a national ranking.
“We want to win the state championship — that’s obviously the best thing we can do and I think we’re capable of it,” Coyotes sophomore defender and team captain Josh Jirbandey said. “It’s an ambitious target.”
LTCC has a 3-2 record and is ranked 14th in the nation after opening the season at the Hartnell Tournament and playing last weekend at the Cosumnes River Tournament. The Coyotes are hosting their own tournament this weekend, and face West Valley (Saratoga) in their home opener Friday at 4 p.m.
“The guys are at a good place — they know that they don’t know it all, they know that they still need direction, discipline and focus,” Coyotes head coach Ben Wade said. “Hopefully we’ll give them that structure during practices, and I’m expecting great things from these guys.”
In his 18th season coaching college soccer, Wade said Lake Tahoe’s initial success is not a major surprise. He and the team have high expectations in the program’s first year.
“I told LTCC when they hired me that this was not going to be a first-year program — the coaches and the players talked about it, and we said we’re going here to win a championship,” Wade said.
Part of the reason for the Coyotes’ early success is due to the fact that the program isn’t exactly starting from scratch. Wade came to LTCC from Lassen College in Susanville, Calif., and 10 players made the switch with him from a Cougars team that went 13-2-3 and finished atop the Golden Valley Conference last season.
“Most of the freshmen from that team came here — we decided we wanted to start this program together,” sophomore midfielder Soeren Gelbrecht said. “It’s a new season and a new place — we’re starting from the beginning.”
Jirbandey and Gelbrecht are two of the players that transferred from Lassen, and the pair is part of the Coyotes’ large international contingent. Jirbandey is from England, Gelbrecht hails from Germany — and they headline a roster that features players from Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Sweden.
“In the end, we’re all soccer players and we’re one team,” said Gelbrecht, the team’s leading scorer through five games. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, we have to produce on the pitch together.”
The Coyotes’ 28-man roster also includes players from Nevada and California — and local products Carlos Trujeque, Andres Orozco and Mark Waite. Trujeque has stood out in the early season — the freshman forward scored a goal and earned man of the match honors in LTCC’s 2-1 win over American River (Sacramento) on Sunday.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this program as it starts out this year,” said Trujeque, a 2012 graduate of South Tahoe High. “I definitely really like playing for my hometown.”
Lake Tahoe has tried out seven different formations since the preseason started in the beginning of August, and Wade said he has settled on a few with the season underway. However the Coyotes line up this season, they plan to consistently pressure their opponents.
“We play high pressure, we try to hold onto the ball and play possession — we like to do a lot of two-touch stuff and use every single player,” Wade said. “But then if the quick counterattack is there, we like to put it down the other team’s throat.”
LTCC’s home opener on Friday is the first of six home matches the team has in 2014. The Coyotes’ first Golden Valley Conference home contest is Oct. 3 against Lassen.
“It’s the first home game for the men’s team ever — that’s pretty exciting,” Wade said. “The guys want to play at home and we’ve got a great home field. We have high elevation, we have a fast pitch, we have a big pitch and it’s our hometown.”