Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

MC-Rockville men’s soccer on top; women look to join them

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Montgomery College-Rockville men’s soccer coach Steve Nakamura and his counterpart on the women’s side, Kelly Wakeman, have faced some challenges in putting together their final rosters for play this fall.

Nakamura’s difficulties, however, are the kind most coaches, including Wakeman, don’t really mind having.

While Wakeman has struggled to field a complete 11-player squad for preseason practice, Nakamura has had to sift through some 60 hopefuls for play on his squad that finished ranked No. 14 in the final National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division III national poll.

‘‘This is a soccer-rich area so there’s girls out there,” said Wakeman, a Pennsylvania native who is in her first year at Montgomery College. ‘‘I’ve had as few as four girls at one practice. It makes you get very creative as far as practice goes. The nice thing is you can work on individual skills.”

As of last Friday, Wakeman said she had roughly 13 players on the roster and she believes others will join the squad as the start of school draws nearer. Last year’s squad compiled a 4-6-1 record.

‘‘There’s been quite a few coaches in and out of here [in recent years],” said Wakeman, who was a four-year goalkeeper at Moravian (Pa.) College. ‘‘There’s not much of a foundation here. That’s what I’m trying to do. We’ll see what happens. We’ve got a lot of different [cultural] backgrounds.”

And, Wakeman said, varying skill levels as well: ‘‘There are some girls who will fit right in and for some it will be a big step. We’re trying to take on the challenge.”

Looking to hold things together as this year’s squad grows in depth and experience will be freshmen Melissa Puentes, a midfielder from Sherwood High, and Fernanda Alvarado, a forward from Northwest, and returning goalkeeper Michelle Amaya.

While Wakeman is trying to build a program from the bottom up, Nakamura looks to stay on top and continue the program’s successful ways he helped foster first as an assistant coach under former head coach and athletics director Tom Bichy.

His Knights compiled a 15-3-1 record and won the Maryland Junior College League championship a year ago before falling to Anne Arundel Community College in the Region XX playoffs on penalty kicks. Several key players from that squad are back, including Frank Fregoso, an All-America goalkeeper.

Fregoso joined the squad after serving a stint in the United States Marines. He learned of the Montgomery College squad through a friend who lives in Silver Spring. Fregoso has drawn interest from both Maryland and UMBC for next year.

Back-up goalkeeper Erick Cocka (Wheaton High graduate), midfielder James Waboagye (Ghana), defender⁄midfielder Ben Brosseau (Damascus), defender Paelo Celvo (Richard Montgomery), defender Edgar Quisquinay (Blair) and forward⁄midfielder Mamadou Diatta (Senegal) are also back. Celvo was an all-region selection, while Diatta led the 18-and-over Spanish League, which is part of the Greater Metro Washington area’s men’s league, in scoring this past spring.

Forward⁄midfielder Julian Sisman (Churchill) and defender Mohammed El-Rafi, a redshirt freshman, headline a strong group of newcomers.

‘‘I think we’ll do as well if not better than last year,” Nakamura said. ‘‘We’ve set a goal to get out of the region. We want to win crucial games and try to win the division and then win the state.”

The Knights will be tested early as they compete in both the Maryland⁄New Jersey shootout during Labor Day and the North Carolina⁄Maryland shootout the following weekend.