College Corner: Men's Soccer
Two college teams benefited from Valencia County soccer players this past college season.
Ranger College, located 90 miles west of Fort Worth, Texas, went 5-8-1 with Ricardo Perez-Contreras and Jesus Vasquez on the team.
Trinidad State Junior College, in Colorado, was in its first year as a soccer program, bringing in Andrez Leyva and Mariano Kachelmyer to play for the Trojans in their 6-9-1 opening campaign.
All four played soccer at Belen High.
As the leading goal scorer in New Mexico history, Perez-Contreras knew that the college game would be a little harder.
But it challenged the collegiate freshman even beyond his expectations.
"The next level is hard," said Perez-Conreras. "There are not many changes to the goal and more competition."
Ranger College lost in the first round of regionals to Hill College on penalty kicks.
Perez-Contreras was a team captain and played forward and midfielder.
He scored eight goals and had five assists.
"When soccer and school are together, it makes it even harder," said Perez-Contreras, who is studying mechanical engineering. "But college over all is good."
After completing his associate degree, Perez-Contreras hopes to attend the University of New Mexico to complete his studies and intends to try out for the Lobo soccer team.
Although Vasquez did not start for Ranger, he was one of the key players off the bench and averaged 25 minutes a game.
He did not notch any goals or assists, but enjoyed his time on the field after getting a medical redshirt for the 2011 season.
"Playing college soccer is very difficult," said Vasquez. "Not everyone can play at this level, but I like how there is a lot more competition.
"Even on our own team you have to compete for a spot on the starting squad. Every practice is a battle for a spot on the team for playing time."
Vasquez is studying criminal justice and is nearing completion of his associate degree.
Although still eligible due to the redshirt, Vasquez may not return for the 2013 season, if he completes his degree.
It was an interesting year at Trinidad State for Leyva and all of the players on the newly-formed team.
As the starting center-back, Leyva noted that communication was the important element in playing at the college level.
The Trojans were close in many games and had a better season than most anticipated as a first-year program.
Leyva had five assists from his backfield position.
"I was able to earn these assists mostly through free kick services and through still utilizing my long throw in," he said, recalling the success he had at Belen in the same capacity in high school.
"We could compete with the best, but we were unable to find the back of the net," said Leyva, hoping for a better sophomore season. "This inability to score goals led to us losing many of our games by one goal."
The unique experience of college soccer, along with studying for a degree in mechanical engineering, has Leyva excited about what lies ahead in the 2013 season.
"I really enjoyed playing college soccer," he said. "Traveling to different states was a great experience for me.
"It forced me to find a balance between soccer and school, and my goal is to earn Scholar All American honors as a college player, as I did as in high school in 2011."
He maintained a 4.0 average during the fall semester.
Although no season statistics were available for Kachelmyer, he was a starter for the Trojans in their initial season.
He did score at least one assist during the season.
Kachelmyer was a part of two Class 4A state runner-up teams in Belen and graduated in 2012.
He ranked eighth in points in Class 4A during his senior season with the Eagles with 18 goals and six assists.
(Do you know a Valencia County product who is competing in interscholastic college athletics? Send us some information by email at email@example.com.)
-- Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.