Solid Season for Men’s Soccer Ends on a Goal in Semifinal Round
A come-from-behind win over Essex CC in late September hinted at better things to come in October.
A 2-1 victory over Nassau on Oct. 8 was one of a 5-game win streak.
Abby Mohamed-Hamza had a solid performance in goal.
West Windsor, N.J. – Making it to the semifinal round of a regional tournament might be a decent season for some community college men's soccer programs. But at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), the goal is always the Region 19 title and beyond.
After losing to Harcum College 1-0 in the semis on Oct. 22, the Vikings will have to be satisfied with some smaller gains. And, according to Head Coach Widmarc Dalce, the gains were most certainly there.
After posting a 5-0 record during the month of October, Dalce contends that Mercer was the better team in the semifinal contest. “Our level of play was good. We created a lot of chances. We just didn’t finish,” he said. The Vikings gave their opponent just one chance by not fully clearing the ball early in the game, and Harcum used the opportunity to score the only goal. The Vikings end their season with a 9-6-2 record.
Coming off a memorable 2015 season when the team advanced to the Northeast District Tournament, the first order of business this year was adjusting to the loss of almost every starter.
Dalce observed, “We lost 17 players from last year's roster. We started the season with 19 freshmen.” He praised his sophomore leaders: midfielders Guilherme Franca, Humberto Blanco, Wesley Gramajo Reyes, Arinze Iloka, and Jared Rogers, and defenders Carlos Leal and Zach Castaldo. “They were seasoned players. They knew what we expected and they set the tone to bring the freshmen along.
“With young players, it’s not just about talent,” Dalce continued. “They have to adjust to the faster pace of the college game. They have to show maturity in their decisions on the field. They are being asked to do things they have never done before.”
Having just completed his fifth year as head coach, Dalce has gotten used to the see-saw nature of two-year college programs. “You have your ups and downs. One year, you will be very good, and then drop to average and build back up again.” He added that he expects most of his freshmen to return.
In many ways, the 2016 Vikings did all the right things. “These are soccer guys,” Dalce said. “They were always happy to be on the field. They showed up at practice every day; they were disciplined; they were on time. They did a good job of playing together as a team. The coaching staff is very satisfied with their level of play and their progress. We will build on it for next year.”
Freshmen who stepped up in a big way were defender Talys Drummond, midfielder Dean Klemmer, and goalkeeper Abby Mohamed-Hamza, who kept the Vikings alive in numerous games when opponents were pressuring to score.
Freshman Vladik Margolin led the Vikings in goals scored with 12 in 13 games played. Before getting injured, sophomore Jared Rogers had eight goals and freshman Anthony Remboski and sophomore Humberto Blanco each had five. Goalkeeper Abby Mohamed-Hamza, who took over in goal in the second half of the season, finished with 48 saves in seven games and a .828% save percentage.
“Our goal is to push our players to be their best. In that we succeeded," Dalce said. "They were always open to learning something new. We saw real development in our new guys, which will get them ready for next season.”
Dalce says that just like his squad, the coaching staff worked as a team. He praised all his assistant coaches: John Pietrowski, Mark Pratico, Haris Hbawi and Milton Suah.
While the official season has ended, the work will continue. Within two weeks of the final game, players were already in the MCCC Fitness Center. In January indoor practices will commence and the team will play a short spring season to stay in shape.
Four players were recognized for post-season honors. Iloka, Leal and Margolin were named to the All-Region First Team. Gramajo Reyes was named to the All-Region Second Team.
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