Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer trio signs letters of intent; Jirbandey to UNLV
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The success of a community college soccer program is measured as much by wins and losses as it is by four-year college commitments — in its first season, the Lake Tahoe Community College men’s team has now succeeded in both areas. Three Coyotes signed NCAA letters of intent on National Signing Day, making the announcements during a ceremony at the college Wednesday.
“A huge part of my job is to promote these student athletes to the next level,” LTCC head coach Ben Wade said. “It’s very fulfilling to see them sign that piece of paper, and know that they are going to go onto the next level — and to see them succeed.”
Lake Tahoe sophomores Josh Jirbandey, Soeren Gelbrecht and Ross Gray signed with four-year schools, and represent the initial wave of Coyotes’ college commitments from its first class. Each player came with Wade to LTCC from Lassen College to be a part of the first soccer team in school history.
“For the guys to move here from Lassen College shows an intense amount of loyalty — and that makes this class even more special,” Wade said. “It has been an incredible journey — to be at two difference schools and see their commitment to me and this school is very unique and very special.”
Jirbandey signed with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. LTCC’s team captain from Hastings, England, anchored its defense in 2014 while recording a team-high 25 points on eight goals and nine assists.
“I wanted to play for a strong team and play my type of soccer,” Jirbandey said. “They want me to fill in straight away in defense and try to lead the team as I’ve done here, which I’m happy to do. It should be interesting and it should be fun.”
UNLV is coming off one of its best seasons in school history, winning the Western Athletic Conference and making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1988. Jirbandey has aspirations of playing professional soccer, and signing with the Rebels offers him high-level exposure pursuant to that goal.
“Josh wants to play professionally, and going to a top Division I school is going to get him more exposure,” Wade said. “His professional aspirations are merited, and I think we’re going to see him professional soccer one day.”
Gelbrecht will continue his soccer career at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. The Crusaders compete in NCAA Division II’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and advanced to the second round of the tournament last season.
“It feels super good that a university wants you and that a coach wants you — and that we’ve done a good job creating our reputation over the past two years,” Gelbrecht said.
Gelbrecht, who had three goals and eight assists for the Coyotes last season, chose Northwest Nazarene over other schools because he felt that the quality of play was a step up from the community college level. Wade said the midfielder from Bad Segeberg, Germany, will have no problem competing at the next level.
“The thing that Soeren gives to a team is that little bit of magic, and it’s what professional clubs pay millions of dollars for — the guy that can do that magic in that moment to get a goal,” Wade said. “He sees windows on the field that not everybody can see.”
Gray signed with Concordia University in Portland, Ore., his top choice since arriving in America to play soccer two years ago. The Scottish defender plans to study psychology while playing for the Cavaliers, who will begin their first season in NCAA Division II in 2015 as part of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“It’s a great feeling — all the hard work over the past two years has paid off,” Gray said. “It’s a great school in a great area, the team has a great coach and it has the degree that I want to do.”
Gray made 11 starts for the Coyotes in defense, and finished the season with two goals and one assist. His play on the back line keyed LTCC’s 1-0 win over Fresno City College, one of its biggest of the 2014 season.
“He’s very consistent — he never has a bad touch — and you can always count on him. He’s very dependable,” Wade said. “At this next level, he’s going to continue to rise to the occasion.”
Jirbandey, Gelbrecht and Gray played important roles during Lake Tahoe’s inaugural season, which featured a Golden Valley Conference championship and a second-round appearance in the CCCAA NorCal Regional playoffs. As each player moves and advances their soccer careers, they do so with fond memories of their lone season as Coyotes.
“I totally enjoyed it — it was really good to be a part of that,” Gelbrecht said. “It was a great season for all of us, for the college and for the community.”
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