KLAMATH FALLS – It took 27 years for Klamath Community College to launch an athletics program, but in front of supporters and students on Sunday morning KCC Badgers soccer officially began, ending in a thrilling 1-1 tie hosting the Central Oregon Community College Bobcats.
Launched as a club sport, roughly 20 students expressed interest in starting a KCC soccer club at the start of the fall term in September. With some participants as old as 30 and a decade removed from competitive soccer experience, and lacking a proper on-campus soccer facility, a community scrimmage was held at Henley High School to gauge original interest. Once organized and with Henley Soccer Coach Lupe Gonzales signed on to run the squad, practices have been ongoing, held three times a week in the evenings at Klamath Union High School’s Modoc Field.
Previous efforts to launch athletics at KCC had fallen through for a variety of reasons, but with extensive growth of KCC facilities and programs in recent years, the question of whether or not to reconsider sports was brought forth by staff members and students alike. Soccer received the initial go-ahead, with other possible club sports programs now under consideration.
“We had so many Henley, KU, and Mazama graduates around town that weren’t doing anything, and some are enrolled at KCC, so we started a conversation about starting a club team,” said Coach Gonzales.
The KCC Badgers team played its first road game at COCC several weeks ago, losing 3-0, but were competitive enough that the COCC team agreed to travel to Klamath Falls for a rematch. That game was Sunday – the final game of COCC’s season, and the first home game of any kind in KCC athletics history.
The game at KU was preceded by a tailgate party hosted by KCC Director of Retention and Student Success Oscar Herrera – who also serves as KCC Soccer Club Advisor. A shirt giveaway had been organized by Herrera and others earlier in the week to spread awareness and encourage students to pack the stands. Soccer uniforms were loaned by Henley High School, as all but the newly ordered KCC goalie jerseys were still enroute by kickoff. The KCC mascot, Baxter the Badger, even delivered the game ball to the referees.
“There are a lot of local kids that want to play at the next level,” said KCC team captain Jacob Gonzales, a Henley graduate. “My dad (Lupe) really wanted to coach college soccer, and we have a lot of local soccer players that are willing to practice at night when it’s cold.”
Despite KCC controlling the majority of time of possession and shots on goal in the first half, it would be COCC that drew first blood, scoring with four minutes remaining in the first half. The KCC persistence eventually paid off, as with 14 minutes remaining in the second half a shot by Luz Serrato couldn’t be handled by COCC’s goalkeeper, hitting the top post before eventually trickling in for a tying score. Through a whirlwind of play to close out the game neither team could muster a score, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
“We have so much talent here in town that haven’t done anything since high school – the fact that they were competitive shows what talent level we have here,” said Coach Gonzales. “We have some nontraditional students, but they can still play. It is going to take a little while to get the team going, but it has improved quite a bit in only a short time.”
While initially a club sport, administrators hope the KCC soccer team eventually develops into a program capable of joining a collegiate league soon.
“Our community is ready to rally behind a community sports team, and this brings all of us together to root for our Basin athletes,” said Herrera. “In the next couple of years, we will be able to provide exciting opportunities for student to both compete and continue their education.”
For more about Klamath Community College visit www.klamathcc.edu.