Alan Hoskins, Supervisor of Public Information
Friday, August 17, 2012
Last year, Kansas City Kansas Community College was three weeks into the men’s soccer season before notching a win.
With six of the Blue Devils first eight encounters at home, Coach Ruben Rodriguez is taking aim at a much better start in 2012 - except he’s still without a home field. With construction of a new soccer field still under construction, the Blue Devils will play all but one of their home games at the Overland Park Soccer Complex at 13700 Switzer Road.
“It’s difficult to win on the road,” says Rodriguez, who is in his second year as head coach after three years as an assistant. “There’s no home field advantage. All the traveling affects the way player’s play. But it is what it is. This time next year we’ll have one of the finest soccer facilities in the conference.”
After opening the season at Metropolitan Community College’s Blue River campus Thursday, Aug. 23, the Blue Devils will entertain Pratt on Aug. 28 and Wentworth Academy on Aug. 29, both at 1 p.m. The Pratt clash will open the Jayhawk Conference season and is the second half of a doubleheader with the KCKCC women facing Pratt at 11 a.m.
With only five sophomores, it will be a young but promising Blue Devil team. “The most talented in my five years,” says Rodriguez. “Overall, it’s a fast team with more technical players than in previous years.”
A trio of veterans is expected to lead the way - midfielder Luis Mascote of Harmon and defenders Edwin Lopez of Harmon and Bernardo Rodrigues of Orlando, Fla. “The three captains, they are very technical with good skills and are being heavily recruited,” says Rodriguez.
Two area standouts, sophomore Scott Pestock of Piper and Joseph Hilario of Bonner Springs along with sophomore transfer Anthony Mendy of Gambia are the leading candidates at forward while the battle for goalkeeper is a dandy between 6-2 Collin Cook of Piper and 5-8 Tomas Ortiz of Houston, Tex. “Cook was outstanding in high school at Piper; Ortiz is very quick and talented,” says Rodriguez.
Ortiz is one of seven recruits from five high schools in Houston as Rodriguez hit the recruiting jackpot on a trip to the Lone Star state. “I scouted a tournament and signed three players and the others got interested and came up for a visit and were very impressed with the campus and signed on,” says Rodriguez.
Four of them, Gabriel Betancourt, Alvin Sariento, Juan Bustamante and Edwin Rosales, are among the leaders of a deep and talented midfield corps that also includes Bernie May of Piper, Colton Burk of Louisburg and Australian Zak Gargraves. “The great thing is we have midfielders coming off the bench who are capable of starting,” says Rodriguez.
Defensively, Erick Marcia of Houston and Alan Arizmendi of Phoenix are expected to join veterans Mascote and Lopez as starters with backup from Robert Cawthon of Piper, Marcus Titterington of Tonganoxie and Jose Arrendondo of Houston. “Without having played, a lot of positions are up for grabs,” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is again being assisted by Abdulhamid (Honka) Zllitnia in practices being held at Wyandotte County Park. A club team coach for the last 15 years in the metro area, Zllitnia coached at Maple Woods Community College for five years before coming to KCKCC.
Without a home field, the Blue Devils hope to make themselves more visible with the sale of T-shirts ($20) and hoodies ($30) that will be available at games and the KCKCC soccer office (913-288-7255) or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.