Northwest Soccer Gears Up for 2012 Campaign
July 24, 2012By Kevin Maloney of NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE
By Brian Lentz, Student Assistant
Longtime head coach Peter Jarjoura (11th season) and the Northwest men’s and women’s soccer teams are coming off an improved mark, despite both teams still falling short of the postseason a year ago. The women’s team finished at 5-9-1 overall and in third place in the MACJC North Division, while the men’s team finished 5-7-3 and in fourth place in the north.
Jarjoura, alongside seventh-year assistant coach Charlie Baldwin, are looking to return both teams to the playoffs with a helpful mix of returning players and fresh talent.
On the women’s side, the Lady Rangers return three players from last years’ unit, including midfielder Amanda Hinton who started in all 15 games and forwards Allie Hodges (13 starts) and Kelsey LeBlanc (14 games) who also played pivotal roles as freshmen.
Northwest will face the tall task of having to replace 90 percent of its scoring from a year ago after the loss of freshman Samantha Beard (six goals, 14 total points) and sophomore Morgan Taylor (seven goals, 18 total points).
The Lady Rangers welcome 17 newcomers overall, including two out of staters in goalkeeper Ashlee Rogers (Memphis, Tenn.) and forward Bree Francis (Bartlett, Tenn.).
On the opposite side of the pitch, the Ranger men return five players to this season’s roster and will face a similar task in having to replace 90 percent of its scoring from a year ago. Big losses from last year's squad are NJCAA Third Team All-American Fakhry Khulfan (12 goals, 28 points) and two-year starter Nathan Smith (eight goals, 21 points)
Ruddy Guzman and Robbie Fox, both of which started in all 15 games last season, are back as well as Peyton Smith and Joseph Paez. Forward Dylan Castoria, who missed the entire 2011 season with an injury, provides a big boost to the squad after scoring a team-best eight goals in only 10 games as a freshman in 2010.
The Rangers welcome 15 newcomers to this year’s roster, including two out of staters in Gnande Zleh and Muhamed Bojang, both of which Jarjoura feels will make an impact. “I feel confident that they will be compatible with our current freshmen and returners,” Jarjoura said. “I think that combining them with our returning sophomores, that they should be players we look to also step up and count on this season.”
Coach Jarjoura expects these newcomers, as well as the handful of returning players, to guide both teams into the postseason. “I expect our returning players to lead the way for our newcomers. We have two weeks of preseason this year, and that additional week really should help us get things in order before our first match.”
With the women’s team finishing with the most wins since the 2006 season, Jarjoura expects a return to the postseason this year. “I really feel that we will compete well in our division this season and make a serious run at a playoff appearance."
Jarjoura expects the same for his men’s squad, who has missed the playoffs in two consecutive seasons since finishing as runner-up in the north in 2009. “We fell just short last season, but I expect us to be right back in the thick of things in the division this season.”
Speaking of the division, the Rangers face a tough road as always. One team that the Rangers struggle with each season is Hinds, a team that the Rangers have beaten only once in an 11-year span. “Hinds is a team every year that we want to beat,” Jarjoura said. “Hinds has been probably one of the most dominant teams in our division since we started play in 2002, and they’re one of the biggest recruiters in the conference.”
Hinds isn’t the only opponent Jarjoura expects to be battling near the top this season though. “Holmes and Itawamba are both on the rise. Both teams are also very competitive with us every year and are going to be fighting near the top for a playoff position.”
As for the rest of the division schedule, Jarjoura expects it to be another competitive season where anything can happen. “Every year, all the teams are gunning for the playoffs. They’re going out and recruiting and doing all that they can to grab one of those playoff spots. Our main goal is to go out and be one of those teams that are competitive and pick up one of those spots.”
After a pair of exhibition games, the Rangers open their regular season schedule with an Aug. 25 matchup at Delta State. The home opener is set for Aug. 28 vs. Southwest Mississippi, which will be the beginning of three consecutive games against south division opponents.
The Rangers will begin their north division slate at Hinds on Sept. 7. The regular season schedule will come to a close on Oct. 16, with a division match against East Central at home.
The MACJC state playoffs are set for Oct. 20-21 at the south's No. 1 seed.