PENDLETON — It was an historic homecoming for Blue Mountain Community College athletics Friday night. Underneath a familiar landscape of cattle and crops began something new and unfamiliar. For the first time ever, BMCC hosted a men’s soccer match.
Head coach Art Mota along with assistant coaches Maggie Coleman and Austin Shick brought together 21 athletes from Eastern Oregon and beyond to form a young, developing team that will not only continue the careers of the men already on the roster but also provide opportunity for younger players to extend their careers beyond high school — and do so in front of their family and friends.
“That was the thing that attracted them the most,” Mota said of the Timberwolves being made up of mostly local players. “When I spoke to them during the recruiting process it was about making history and I think they all found that very appealing and very attractive. They are wanting to make history and set a standard for those that come afterwards.
“We do have a lot of players from the area, and that is always going to be an emphasis as long as I’m here that we are going to try to draw in as many players as we can from the area and try to put out a product that everyone can be proud of.”
Of the 21 players, five are from Hermiston, four from Pendleton, two from Boardman, and one from Umatilla. There are six players from Idaho, one from Washington, and even one from California.
The family-like atmosphere growing up in a small town provides was something else that attracted Brian Ramirez — a freshman midfielder out of Pendleton High School. That type of camaraderie is one of the things that is working well for this team.
“We all get together very well,” Ramirez said. “We are all a big family, that’s one thing I like about this group.”
Like in any family, there are ups and downs and the men’s first home game was anything but up.
The Timberwolves fell to the Wenatchee Valley College Knights 11-2. Their only goals came in the 37 minute from Hermiston native Giovanni Madrigal, and in the 85 minute again by Madrigal.
It was a tough outing for the all-freshman squad, but one that is almost necessary in this stage of a program.
“We probably just need to look ourselves in the mirror and do some reflection and see if we are willing to give a little bit more of each other,” Mota said. “We are lacking in a lot of areas.”
With the youth comes a big learning curve, Mota added. The men have struggled with things like speed of play, the physicality at this level, communication, and the work rate, and the learning curve hasn’t been easy.
“We’re learning and we’re learning the hard way,” Mota said. “We’re definitely taking our knocks.”
Just like the team, the season is still very young. The Timberwolves now have two games under their belts and will reset and recharge as early as Monday. For now, Mota asks the fans for patience as they work out the wrinkles.
“I’m really appreciative of the crowd that came out to watch and I just hope they understand that it is going to take time,” he said. “It’s going to take time to build the program up and just be patient.”
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez