Worth the wait: Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer celebrates next wave of college commitments
COYOTES HEADED TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Josh Jirbandey, UNLV
Soeren Gelbrecht, Northwest Nazarene University
Ali Giammattei, Drury University
Ross Gray, Concordia University
Mauricio Torrealba, Bloomfield College
Sam Kitchen, Louisiana State University at Alexandria
Hector Hernandez, St. Thomas University
Alex Staines, Louisiana State University at Alexandria
The second wave of players from the Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer program took the next step in their soccer careers on Monday. Five Coyotes signed to play at four-year colleges in a ceremony at LTCC, raising the total to eight signees from the program’s inaugural team.
“I knew the guys would get picked up — it was just a matter of time,” Coyotes head coach Ben Wade said. “When the guys were starting to lose hope a month ago, I knew it was coming and it was just a matter of perseverance.”
Midfielder Ali Giammattei, defender Mauricio Torrealba, striker Sam Kitchen, defender Alex Staines and midfielder Hector Hernandez all made their announcements Monday. They join defender Josh Jirbandey, midfielder Soeren Gelbrecht and defender Ross Gray — who inked on National Signing Day — as Coyotes headed to the next level.
“I’m exceptionally proud of these guys for not giving up and continuing to stick with it,” Wade said. “It’s bittersweet, but I love to see the guys moving on.”
Putting pen to paper represented the realization of a dream for the five players — to play the sport they love while getting a degree from a four-year school. But for each player, the ceremony also meant something slightly different.
For Hernandez, one of only two American sophomores on the Coyotes’ 2014 roster, it represents a first. The Sparks High alum will be the first member of his family to go to college when he attends NAIA St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Fla. on a full-ride scholarship this fall.
“It’s massive — this is what I planned for from the beginning, and now that it’s really here it’s heartwarming,” Hernandez said. “For how hard my parents worked to get me here, this is my way of showing the appreciation for that — they worked hard for me and I’ll finish it off from here.”
Hernandez was one of 10 American players on this year’s LTCC team, and the only one from Northern Nevada. The former Railroaders standout relished the opportunity to interact with players from around the world on and off the field.
“It’s an experience I’ll never forget and the best part of my life,” Hernandez said. “To be the only one representing Reno is something pretty cool.”
In the case of Torrealba it means a reunion with his twin brother Marcelo, who has spent the last two seasons at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Minnesota. The siblings from Sao Paolo, Brazil spent two years apart playing junior college soccer with the ultimate goal of playing on the same pitch together — and they will be reunited at Div. II Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, N.J.
“We’ve played together for all our lives and we’re really good when we play together, so it’s an amazing thing that I can play with my brother for two seasons,” Torrealba said. “It’s the realization of a dream.”
For Giammattei, it brought a feeling of relief. The midfielder from Worthing, England was happy to sign with Drury University, a Div. II school in Springfield, Mo., after waiting for weeks past National Signing Day — last season, the Panthers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen because it was getting later and later — to finally get the Letter of Intent was a nice feeling,” said Giammattei, who is aiming for a career in sports broadcasting. “I’m really happy they want me to play for them — it’s a good offer for me and my family.”
And for British teammates Kitchen and Staines, it means the chance to continue their soccer careers together. Both signed with NAIA Louisiana State University at Alexandria — the Bolton native Kitchen and Shorenham-by-Sea native Staines will play as part of the Generals’ second-year program.
“It will be a big help for both of us — at a new area and new school with new people, we’ll have a sounding board in each other,” said Staines, who plans to major in journalism. “If we’re ever struggling, we know that we’ve got someone there that we know — it will make the blending-in process much easier.”
“I like the coach’s vision for the program,” Kitchen added. “He’s bringing a lot of new players in and it’s going to be a good squad — his vision is to win the national championship and hopefully I can contribute to that.”
As these five Coyotes move forward with their soccer careers, they also have to say goodbye to LTCC. As part of Lake Tahoe’s first sophomore class, they have laid the program’s foundation for seasons to come.
“For a first-year program, I was thinking we would get a man and his dog watching us — it turns out the whole community was behind us,” Giammattei said. “They made us feel so welcome — a lot of us are thousands of miles from home, and this feels just like home.”