SRJC men’s soccer: Road swing helped bring team closer together

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Petter Lund moves the ball up the field during SRJC soccer practice in Santa Rosa on Thursday. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

Petter Lund moves the ball up the field during SRJC soccer practice in Santa Rosa on Thursday. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

Opening with five road games in a week, the Santa Rosa Junior College men’s soccer team will know if unity forged off the field results in wins.

Players who have been part of two straight seasons ending short of expectations are back with a large group of newcomers hungry to take Santa Rosa on a deep playoff run.

“This year could be pretty special,” said Keenan Whyte, a returning all-West region midfielder out of Montgomery High. “We’re a much different team. We’re more collective.”

Santa Rosa’s play away from home resumes today against West Hills in the Cosumnes River tournament.

Following on Saturday is a date with four-time defending state champion Mt. San Antonio. Twice (2001 and 2002) Santa Rosa has won the California Community College Athletic Association title.

“We get to see what we’re like right away,” Santa Rosa coach Marty Kinahan said.

Since spring practices, the Bear Cubs have seized on a common will to improve both individual skills and team play.

Tested by a pair of season-opening contests with NCAA Division II teams in Hawaii, the whirlwind trip also helped shape the team’s character. Players made the most of time swimming, snorkeling and cliff jumping on the shores of Oahu and sampling Hawaiian culture.

“It’s more of a brotherhood,” said Rogelio Alvarado, a second-year player from Ukiah High who sat out last season. “What you do off the field reflects what you can do on the field.”

Santa Rosa played close, tough games this past weekend against BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific, including improved ball movement to create scoring opportunities. Then the Bear Cubs shut out Skyline on the road.

Stout defense has been Santa Rosa’s strength early, and the Bear Cubs are confident the scoring will come as players develop greater trust in games.

“That’s what these games were for, to learn how to play better together,” said Petter Lund, a midfielder and exchange student from Norway. “We’ve got a great work ethic.”

Whyte is the lone returning starter from last season, when Santa Rosa won the Big Eight Conference title only to be upset in the first round of the state playoffs.

With so many newcomers, players recognized early the need to work together and find one another’s strengths. Coaches have moved players around, placing them in position to succeed and help the team.

A trio of former All-Empire prep players are in their first season at Santa Rosa: Dontae Garcia, Maria Carrillo; Omar Nuno, Healdsburg High; and Roberto Macias, Roseland University Prep.

Of the players back for a second campaign, several were on the 2011 team that was the only Kinahan squad to not make the state playoffs in his 15 years leading the Bear Cubs.

“I felt like we let the program down,” Alvarado said. “There’s more opportunity this season. It feels good.”

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