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Members of the men’s soccer team join in the celebration.
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The Lewis and Clark women’s soccer team celebrates during a ceremony honoring them on Nov. 23 in the Commons at Lewis and Clark Community College. Both programs advanced to their respective national tournaments in 2015, the first time that has happened in school history.
Lewis and Clark Community College is synonymous with soccer success.
Under longtime head coach Tim Rooney, the Trailblazers are no strangers to wins, national rankings, national tournament berths or even national titles. The women’s program secured the Junior College national championship in 1999 and 2008.
Rooney has been at the helm of the men’s program for 30 years and the women’s for 23 years, but what they accomplished in 2015 was the most impressive accolade yet. For the first time in school history, both LCCC squads qualified for their respective national tournaments.
On Nov. 23, the school celebrated both programs in a reception at the Commons on the Godfrey campus. Faculty, students and community members came out to support the banner seasons for the men and women.
“Athletically, Lewis and Clark has always been known for soccer,” said Jared Hennings, student activities director and emcee for the event.
The men’s team posted an 18-4-1 record in ‘15, advancing to the JUCO nationals in Axton, Va. The women went 16-4-2 and played in the national tournament in Melbourne, Fla.
It was easy for Rooney to rank 2015, considering those two feats.
“This was one of the best because both teams were really solid,” the 66-year-old Rooney said. “Both teams worked hard and the effort was great all year. It was fun going to practice.”
Rooney said he recognized early on that the two squads had a chance to be Region 24 champs and push for national titles.
“We beat SWIC at SWIC (Sept. 10), the men won 6-1 and women won 5-0, and just the way we played, I thought, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance here,’” Rooney said. “From then on, we played solid the whole year, so I thought there was a real good chance we could both go.”
The feat is even more impressive knowing that Rooney guides both programs simultaneously. He splits his time as equally as possible but adamantly credited the importance of his assistant coaches. Ryan Hodge and Brian Korbesmeyer were key to the success and got rousing applause upon their entrances, along with Rooney, at the reception.
Rooney admitted player personnel is important too, so everyone is on the same page.
“I’ve got two good assistants and you’ve got to have good assistants,” Rooney said. “And you have to have players that are buying in to what you’re selling. We’re selling teamwork. I always tell my players, ‘I’ve been a starter, I’ve been the first guy coming in off the bench and I’ve been the guy who never got in.’ I know all those roles and the thing I loved about it was, even though I wasn’t playing, I loved my teammates.
“I want them to love the process, recognize if someone has better ability than you, appreciate that, but you work as hard as you can to force that person to play up to their level. You’ve got to work hard because you never know what’s going to happen.”
As for the players, the Trailblazers get them from everywhere. A quick glance of the roster shows players from the Metro East, the St. Louis metropolitan area as well as Canada, Jamaica, England, Denmark and Australia.
Rooney said the ultimate goal is winning and finding the right pieces, so it doesn’t matter where they come from as long as they are committed to that ultimate goal.
“You’re just trying to find the best players you can,” he said. “I’ve always said that I don’t care if a kid is from Alton, St. Louis, Springfield or some place overseas, if they’re the best players we can get corralled for our team, that’s where we’re going. We’re trying to win. We’re not trying to trick anybody and just go local, no; we’re doing everything.
“Our scholarship base is good, Dr. (Dale) Chapman has done well supporting us and it’s made it easier for us to get some really good players and to compete you’ve got to have good players. I don’t care how good a coach you are, if you don’t have talent you’re not going to win. It’s that simple.”
On the women’s side it was Nicole Howard of Rolla, Mo., leading the charge. Howard netted 40 goals and accumulated 100 points on the season to earn Region 24 Women’s Player of the Year. Cassidy Foley of Quincy, Kaley Hill of Florissant, Mo., and Jane Skaggs of St. Charles, Mo., joined Howard as first-team All-Region players. Edwardsville’s Tessa Wagner and Natalie Otten of St. Charles, Mo., were honorable mentions.
Rooney applauded the play of local players Kirsten Funk of Alton and Anna Whittaker, a Roxana High product, too.
“(Funk) has a chance to be a pretty good player, because not only can she sweep, if we get somebody else to sweep I could see her move into the midfield. She has a lot of ability and it hasn’t really been tapped yet,” Rooney said.
“Anna Whitaker is an unbelievable stopper and did an outstanding job for us for two years.”
On the men’s side, Blake Cearns (Australia) was the Player of the Year, while Nick Johnson (St. Charles) secured Goalkeeper of the Year for Region 24. Cearns finished with 23 goals and 51 points, while Johnson had a 10-3-1 record and .819 save percentage.
Lochlan Reus (Australia) joined Cearns and Johnson on the region’s first-team. Hayden Sparrow (St. Louis) was an honorable mention.
Justin Robinson (Civic Memorial), Bailey Winfield and Michael Romann (Edwardsville) and Nick Harper (Althoff) were local contributors to the men’s team.
Rooney, who was named Coach of the Year for both programs, hinted that he might be nearing the end of his coaching career at LCCC. Nothing is official yet, but after a season like 2015 he’s thought about going out on top. He hopes to make a decision by the end of January.
“If I decide to go I’m leaving on a good note, but if I decide to stay it’s because of the way these two teams played,” Rooney said.
“This is a great place to work because Dr. Chapman is really a great man. I’ve got the school’s support and they hope I don’t leave, but eventually I’m going to have to step aside. We’ll just see.”
Whatever happens, the 2015 soccer season won’t be forgotten.
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