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Talent and Team Chemistry Combine for Strong Men’s Soccer Season


Talent and team chemistry were key to the Vikings' 17 wins.

Co-captain Kotaro Okada was named to the All-Region First Team.

Co-captain Diego Leite was selected to the All-Region First Team.

Daiki Nagata, a leading goal scorer, was named to the All-Region First Team.

Yuriy Kryskiv (pictured) and goalkeeper/co-captain Francesco Zanin were selected to the All-Region Second Team.

Vikings celebrate after one of their many goals.

West Windsor, N.J. -- For most community college soccer programs, a final record of 17-3 would be considered a stellar season. But this is Mercer County Community College (MCCC), where men’s soccer has been a dominant force regionally and nationally, including a run for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) title last year.

“Expectations for our team are always very high,” said Head Coach Widmarc Dalce, who just completed his seventh year. “This was a really talented team. They just didn’t show up to play in that last game [the Region 19 semifinal]. Any time you don’t want it more than the other team, you can lose.” With the 5-2 defeat against Rowan College @ Burlington on Oct. 23, the Vikings season came to an abrupt and disappointing ending.

According to Dalce, while the ending was hard, it is easy to recall this team’s strengths, starting with team chemistry. “It grew over the course of the season. By October, they were all plugged into our process and worked well on both offense and defense,” he said, pointing to seven consecutive wins, all shut-outs, as the Vikings went into their last game. Their versatility allowed the coaching staff to move players around on the field as needed. Dalce noted that numerous international players, hailing from Brazil, Italy and Japan, bonded across cultures and native languages.

With only seven returning sophomores, there were plenty of new players wearing Vikings jerseys on this deep, 30-member squad. Captains included sophomores Diego Leite (defender), Kotaro Okada (midfielder), and Francesco Zanin (goalkeeper).

Injuries are a factor in most seasons and this year was no exception. Zanin, a talented goalie from Italy, broke his hand and sat out the final games of the season. Freshman Eial Marzouk stepped in and did a solid job that will prepare him for a leadership role next year.

Dalce says many Vikings players were highly skilled. “The coaching staff continued to challenge them all to play at a top level, not get too comfortable, and continue to fight for their spot,” he said. “We want to see them play soccer the right way, not just score goals.”

With most of the freshmen expected to return, Dalce said this year has been a great lesson in what is expected and how to succeed as a team.

He is also proud of his players’ accomplishments in the classroom. “We want to prepare them for transfer to four-year schools. Soccer opens doors. If we can help them get recruited by a four-year program and get a scholarship, that means a lot,” Dalce said. "It’s not just about soccer. It’s about getting our players ready for the next step in their lives.”

Three players were named to the All-Region 19 First Team: Okada, Leite and freshman forward Daiki Nagata. Zanin and freshman forward Yuriy Kryskiv were selected to the All-Region 19 Second Team. All five players were also selected to the All-Garden State Athletic Conference Team.

In addition to his hard-working team, Dalce is appreciative of the efforts of the entire coaching staff, which included assistant coaches Haris Abawi, John Pietrowski and Milton Suah. “We all worked together and shared our coaching skills, just as we expect the players to do,” he said, adding that Athletics Director John Simone and the entire athletics staff is among the team's strongest supporters. "They support and appreciate the coaches and the soccer program both on an off the field."

This fall, Pietrowski was named to the NJCAA Men's Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Pietrowski has served as assistant coach for the Vikings since 1994.




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