The months and months of waiting finally came to an end for Head Coach Zach Mills and the Southwest Mississippi Community College soccer teams Monday as they kicked off the regular season on a positive note with the men and women picking up 3-1 victories, respectively, over visiting Northwest Mississippi.
The soccer seasons for the Bears were delayed to the spring due to coronavirus restrictions in the fall of 2020.
For Mills, the games marked his first ever as head coach for the women, and his first for the men since a two-year run from 2016-18.
“First game back and falling back into it,” he said. “Hoping to have a lot of success this year and it is going to take a lot of hard work.”
During the women’s match, the Bears (1-0) battled hard against the Rangers displaying a more aggressive style of play not only grabbing possession of loose balls but pushing them up the field.
That style of play paid off in the 26th minute when SMCC goalkeeper Camila Cevallos sent a kick over everyone on the field.
Midfielder Juana Wulff raced to get possession ahead of everyone before sending a shot off of the bottom half of the crossbar and into the net for a goal.
The Rangers, however, answered back about two minutes later to tie the game at 1.
In the second half, SMCC applied more pressure to Northwest. Wulff stepped up once again, scoring her second goal in the 63rd minute. She completed the hat trick 16 minutes later putting the Bears up 3-1.
After the game, Wulff said that she was happy to find success against a tough Rangers team.
“It was a great game,” said the freshman from Argentina. “We went to watch Northwest on Friday and we really thought that they were really tough and played a really good game. They beat Co-Lin, so we knew that it was going to be a hard game.”
Bears shut down Rangers
Similar to the ladies, the Southwest men got off to a solid start in the first half before ramping up their play to pick up the big win over visiting Northwest in the season opener.
“I knew that Northwest would come to play, they just came off of a difficult game against Co-Lin,” said Mills. “This was our first game, so they had the experience of playing already. This is the first college game for a lot of these players, we have a ton of freshmen. And honestly the first game for these sophomores that have a different style now and different personalities and structure.”
Just five minutes into the contest, the Bears (1-0) made a statement as Nahuel Cruz put the ball in the back of the net, giving the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
“I started this year as a defender and I know how the defenders move and how they play,” Cruz said. “I am pretty aware of that and I just try to use that to my advantage.”
SMCC kept up with the aggressiveness in the first half, getting three additional shots on goal before taking the one-goal advantage into the halftime break. Not even two minutes into the second half, however, the Rangers drew even.
In the 77th minute, Kaleb Jones — who provided the assist for Cruz on the first goal of the game — got a score of his own putting SMCC up 2-1.
With under a minute to go, Cruz added another goal to his stats with a header past the Ranger goalkeeper on a corner kick.
Both teams return to action today with road contests against Itawamba.