British freshman Emmanuel Boateng challenges a West Hills defender for the ball in Feather River College’s 2-1 win Aug. 27. Photo submitte
Feather River College’s women’s and men’s soccer teams had strong starts to the season during their opening games last week.
On Monday, Aug. 27, the men’s soccer team traveled to Coalinga to take on West Hills College and walked away with a 2-1 season-opening win.
The women’s team hosted Sierra College and tied 2-2, a significant improvement from last year’s devastating 0-7 defeat.
Last season the FRC men finished the regular season as the 12th highest-ranking team in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Expectations for this year’s performance are equally high.
FRC coaching staff — head coach Don Williams and his men’s assistant Matt Whatley — searched all over the world for players they felt could make an immediate impact on the already strong list of returning players. The result was nine international players from Australia, Mexico and the UK for the men’s team.
“This year we have a good blend of experienced players and energetic freshmen, said Williams.
The action-packed match against West Hills began quickly, with each team getting off shots in the opening minutes.
West Hills drew first blood with a goal in the 14th minute of the match.
Unfazed by the goal, FRC went on the attack. With two minutes left in the half, team captain Jack Wainwright was scythed down in the penalty box. Wainwright’s teammate Joe O’Neill converted the resulting penalty kick for FRC’s first goal.
At the start of the second half West Hills took the kickoff but struggled to move the ball off its half. FRC stole the ball from West Hills and inched it closer to the goal.
Freshman Ash Reinaldo moved the ball up the left wing and passed it to Wainwright directly in front of the goal. Wainwright in turn calmly slotted it past the goalkeeper for the game-winning goal.
FRC’s women’s season opener demanded a different strategy. Keeping in mind the defeat from last year, FRC employed a strategy called low pressure defending.
Sierra College has at least five women who had previously played in division one and two leagues, making Sierra a far faster team than FRC.
“We knew we wouldn’t be able to chase them,” said Williams, “so our strategy was to play low pressure defending. We sat on our own half of the field and let them do what they wanted on their own half. Once the ball got to our half, the pressure was on.”
Though Sierra had control of the ball for the majority of the first half, FRC’s Leslie Ray and Mellissa Kalbfleisch drove the ball to Sierra’s side of the field. Ray scored the first goal of the game, assisted by Kalbfleisch.
Sierra quickly rebutted FRC’s goal by driving the ball into FRC’s goal, tying the score.
Towards the end of the half, FRC’s Grace Pedroza received a free kick, which she utilized by shooting the ball right past Sierra’s goalkeeper, scoring FRC’s second and final goal.
Sierra College made one last goal in the second half, leading to the draw.
To Williams and the women’s team, the draw was considered a victory because it showed the team’s improvement since last year.
“The girls have a lot better technical ability,” Williams said. “They’re now able to pass and receive under pressure, just really work their way through it.”Both FRC teams will next play Friday, Sept. 7, in Chabot. The women play at 2 p.m. and the men at 4. Last year the men’s team beat Chabot 2-0, while the women’s team lost