Salt Lake Community College is home to a wealth of past and present excellence when it comes to athletics. With very successful basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball programs, the sports teams of SLCC’s Athletic Department are a force to be reckoned with.
Beyond the sports programs that are directly part of the athletic department, there are some very deserving teams that rarely get their fair share of the media attention or funding.
SLCC’s soccer programs are an example of the ability to succeed under these circumstances, as they’re not part of the institution’s athletic department.
Case in point: Saturday, Aug. 14th. The SLCC men’s soccer side took on the University of Utah in a match played at Sandy’s famed Rio Tinto Stadium. Rio Tinto is the home of defending Major League Soccer (MLS) champions Real Salt Lake.
“We tried very hard at downplaying the stage itself,” said SLCC men’s head soccer coach Enrique Velasquez. “We wanted just to focus on the game, and to do what we do, and that was it.”
The Bruins of SLCC were able to claim victory on the big stage, defeating the Utes of Utah 4-2 in a match that was “fast-paced and exciting,” according to Bruins fan Jake Mallard.
“It was special, and you could really tell that the atmosphere was different than any other game,” said SLCC defensive midfielder James Vincent. A team captain, Vincent is in his second season as a Bruin, and has played soccer since he was five years old.
“I got the chills,” said Bruins defender Cameron Crump. “It was probably one of the better experiences I’ve had playing soccer.”
The match at Rio Tinto started at 11 a.m. on Saturday and was played in front of an unofficial crowd of just over 250 soccer fans.
Pre-game rituals aside, the teams took the field of battle. Just 15 minutes after kickoff, SLCC tallied the first goal on a set-piece corner kick from Chester Noomon to the head of teammate Chris Blymiller.
Blymiller timed his header perfectly and knocked the ball just inside the left upright and past the Ute goalkeeper to give the Bruins the early 1-0 lead.
“Definitely my goal–that’s what I’ll remember most from this game,” said Blymiller. Blymiller is also a Bruin captain, and describes his job on the field as a forward as “Simply to put the ball in the back of the net.”
The Utes were unable to capitalize on a couple of decent scoring opportunities, and as a result it didn’t take long for SLCC to score again. In the 20th minute of the match, Isaac Saavedra sent the ball into the twine with a good strike and gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead early on in the first half.
After taking the 2-0 lead, Bruin captain and defender Cameron Crump and his teammates were all but certain of an SLCC victory.
“It was like we knew from then on that if we continued to play our game that it was ours,” Crump said. Crump works for Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, and as an employee he played an instrumental part in putting this match together.
“I thought we came into the match a lot more prepared [than Utah],”said Vincent, who is referred to as a “field general” by many of his teammates. “We were in a lot better shape, and our dedication over the last six weeks was much better than theirs.”
Though the Bruins had firm control of the match through the first 35 minutes, Utah managed to get on the scoreboard in the 40th minute on a goal scored by Adam Dahlberg. Five minutes later, the referee blew the halftime whistle and the teams marched off the pitch with SLCC leading 2-1.
“At the half we talked about keeping the ball and making them chase us—we didn’t want to let the U get into their rhythm of play,” said Velasquez. He stressed to his players the importance of maintaining possession and keeping their focus.
“He said that in the first 35 minutes we were perfect, that we were holding the ball really well, and making Utah run,” said Vincent. “He told us to be careful because 2-1’s are kind of a scary score.”
Despite Velasquez’s warnings, SLCC came out flat in the opening moments of the second half. Only four minutes into half number two, Addison Rice of the Utes was able to get another goal past the gloves of SLCC keeper Alberto Santoyo, tying the game at 2-2.
“For us to let a team back into a match when we have them down 2-0 is unforgivable,” said Velasquez. “I think we got a little cocky, I think that we knew we had the game in hand, and we got away from our game.”
The second goal scored by the Utes was just the wake-up call that SLCC needed. Rather than panicking or changing tactics, Velasquez used timely substituting to solidify the Bruin defense.
From minutes 46 to 66, the two teams traded scoring opportunities, with SLCC failing to capitalize on some excellent chances. Bruins keeper Santoyo made a couple of key saves to keep the score tied at 2.
“Beto [Santoyo] was the man of the match in my eyes,” said Velasquez. “He made a couple of saves that kept us in, either one of those goes in and, ugh…we’re in trouble.”
From about the 67th minute on, SLCC dominated the majority of the action. The Bruins got multiple scoring opportunities, and shortly after the 70th minute SLCC’s Collin Wilson scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
The Bruins, now leading 3-2, were resolved not to let Utah tie the match again. SLCC possessed the ball, ran down the clock, and was able to erase any hope of a Ute comeback with a late goal from Nick Vicchrilli that brought about big cheers.
“One of the better moments was when we scored the fourth goal,” Vincent said. “It sealed the deal, as long as we held the ball and didn’t mess around.” Despite the best attempts of a tired Utah side, SLCC held the ball and held on for the 4-2 victory.
As time expired, the Bruins met at midfield and enjoyed their hard-earned win at Rio Tinto. The two squads shook hands and the SLCC players walked in unison among loud cheers to greet and thank their fans on both sides of the field.
“Winning. That’s what I’ll remember most, absolutely,” said Velasquez. “You walk into that setting, you feel the field and you know it’s emotional…it generates a lot of emotions, and to win [at Rio Tinto] the first time we play there is special.”
Velasquez plans to schedule another game at Rio Tinto next season, if possible. He’d like to schedule the contest in mid-September, so as to take advantage of having more students aware of the match and in attendance.
“We’re always looking for ways to raise a couple of bucks for the team,” said Velasquez. The team sold vouchers for the Rio Tinto match for $15, which included a voucher for a ticket to any of Real Salt Lake’s remaining home games.
“I’d really like to thank Real Salt Lake, Scott Reynolds and everyone involved,” said Velasquez. “I would also like to point out Oliver Loua, who came off the bench for us and played very well.”
The SLCC men’s soccer program has many games at home this season and attendance is free of charge. Most home games are played west of the Lifetime Activities Center on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
More information about Bruins soccer is available from SLCC’s Student Life and Leadership offices, and at http://www.slcc.edu/sll/competition_soccer.asp.