Three games into conference play, currently sitting with a losing record, and overcoming the the smoke and weather, the North Idaho College’s men’s soccer team’s goals and aspirations remain the same. The objectives endure: to finish in the top two of the Northwest Athletic Conference East standings, and to host a playoff game.
These tasks will be tough but not impossible to accomplish. Last year, the squad had to make a late run to make the postseason, coming out of a division that was riddled with parity. They might just have to do the same thing this year, as the Eastern Division is once again evenly stacked from second down to sixth. It will be up to those with experience to help the Cardinals prove they belong at the top of the pecking order.
Ken Thompson is in his seventh year as head coach, and he carries a resume of achievement and success into this season. His focused and unwavering mentality play right into his consistency and success, year after year. His player development ability is especially crucial at a two-year community college like NIC.
In our discussions, he made clear his attention to the small details. “The smoke cost us two home games last year, and obviously we had to take a week off earlier (this season).” He said, “It’s tough that we have to play on the road this weekend with the nice weather, because next week it is supposed to rain again.” He knows the-ins-and-outs, and as he leads the Cardinals into another season, the players and those closest to the program know the team is in good hands.
Returning players are known for their hunger. The team will hang its hat on these seasoned players, including Irvin Angulo and Cade Roske. When in need of a goal, these two have proven capable of producing. Or in the case of Angulo, three in fifteen minutes, which helped the Cards to their first conference win after being moved up to forward. Roske currently leads the team in goals, and is a threat to eclipse fifteen goals this year.
Along with Roske, Oscar Padilla co-captains the squad. Padilla, the sophomore out of Weiser, Idaho has gained the respect of players and coaches due to his leadership and undeterred faith in the team. On a team that is strong in all positions, the midfield is undoubtedly the most reliable.
Top to bottom, this roster is one of the best constructed in years, according to Coach Thompson. “This roster has as much balance as any we’ve had in a long time. Up the middle and on the seams, it’s all strong.”
From the forwards, headlined by Parker Gorrill, to the back line featuring Travis Williams and Damian Bautista, and to the goalie spot filled by two very capable athletes, Luis Hernandez and Tanner Sayer, the Cardinals are locked and loaded.
Not to be outdone by the veteran players is Josh Greer, a freshman from Billings, who has been repeatedly praised for his hard work and attention to detail. Coach Thompson gave him high praise by calling him “one of the most dedicated players he has seen” in his seven years here. A staple in the midfield, it is already clear that his progress and IQ will buy him a seat at the table.
Going into a weekend consisting of two road games in Oregon, the time is now and the Cards hope all the time on the practice field starts translating into wins. Coming back with six points would be a huge boost and momentum builder as the push to the playoffs begins to take shape.