Turnout could be key to success for Colt soccer in 2018 campaign

The chance to play for the Colt soccer team drew 85 cadets to the first official day of practice. Photo courtesy John Barbour
The chance to play for the Colt soccer team drew 85 cadets to the first official day of practice. Photo courtesy John Barbour

NMMI Sports Press

On the first day of fall practice this year, head Colt soccer coach John Barbour had a wealth of riches on the pitch: 85 athletes vying for the 44 roster positions allowed by the NMAA on varsity and JV combined.

“Any time you’ve got a player pool that size you’re definitely bound to find some good players,” Barbour said. “And we’re pretty confident we’ve got a good side. It’ll be how well they can gel together; how quickly they can come together; and just like every year I’ve been doing this, it’s going to take them a little while to learn each other’s names.”

That’s an ongoing problem for fall sports at NMMI. Because the students come from all over the world, they don’t spend time together in the summers. And with new students coming in every year, it takes time for both the players and coaches to learn just who everybody is and what they can do.

But with opening day very close on the horizon, Barbour has four returners he’s confident about.

Senior forward Mario Camou “provides stability up top when we need it,” the coach said.

Camou will be joined by seniors Luis Tzintzun — “He’s just a remarkable player and does some amazing things on the field” — and Francisco Vasquez, who’s “a good playmaker in the midfield  so we’ll be looking to get a lot out of him.”

Junior Andres Bleizeffer rounds out the returners Barbour knows will see action.

“He’s another really good one. He’s a solid rock in the midfield role.”

Beyond that, the coach said, who will play when and where is up in the air.

“We’ve got a lot of new kids and they’re going to step in and take over where everybody left off last year,” he said.

But another problem with the far-flung student body is a lack of conditioning.

“Coming back from the summer, we’ve only had them for this week,” Barbour said. “So we’re trying to get them in shape. We don’t have the luxury of doing off-season training like the other schools all summer long. We’re hoping to play with everybody for the first portion of the halves, but I know we’re going to trail off at the end because we’re so out of shape. So we’re just going to have to really try to get through these first few matches and try to get ourselves into match fitness.”

And those matches start already Saturday. The Colts will host former district rival Ruidoso, and Barbour said it should be a good game.

“We’ve always had an even match when we’ve been 4A,” he said. “They’ve won a bunch. We’ve beaten them a few times. So I don’t think it’ll be easy by any means, but we’re really looking forward to getting our season underway and hoping that we can get a good result against them.”

With NMMI moved down a classification to 3A during redistricting, they’ll see very different set of teams comes district, including East Mountain, Hatch and Socorro.

“No one that we haven’t played before, but it’s been a while since we’ve played Hatch and Socorro multiple times during the course of a season,” Barbour said. “Socorro we did have two games with and East Mountain we had at least one if not two games with them last year. So we’re pretty familiar with them. Hatch, though, we haven’t played in a few years so that’ll be kind of a new thing. So we’re just going to have to see how we do and hopefully by district we’ll be ready.”

Last season, the Colts were in the same district as powerhouse Hope Christian, which went on to win the 4A state title, beating the Institute 4-0 in the first round of state. So anything else will be easier. 

“Hope Christian had a remarkable side last year; having them in our district really was rough,” Barbour said. “But everybody else I thought we could play with. So we’ll just have to wait and see how this rolls out. But we’re going to play some big schools this year and we’re hoping to get a bunch of wins along the way.”

Playing up is a constant of Barbour’s teams, and this year they’ve got 5A Clovis and Roswell (the redistricting got rid of the 6A classification except in football) and 4A Goddard, Artesia, Portales and Lovington.”

“We’re going up against the big 5A schools again. That’s OK. We don’t shy away from it,” the coach said. “That’s only going to make us better and that competition is what’s going to make us improve. We just have to rise up to the occasion.”

Also new this year to Colt soccer is assistant coach David Sifuentes.

Sifuentes isn’t new to NMMI or soccer — he’s the Food Services Director for Sodexo and Bates Dining Hall and has coached several youth teams in Roswell, while playing himself.

“He’s got a wealth of knowledge about the game,” Barbour said. “He’s stepped right in and done a fantastic job; so very impressed with him. It’s good to have somebody who can handle himself even if I’m not around. My assistant last year was the same way. It’s good to have somebody who’s even caliber.”

And last year’s assistant has gone on to coach girls volleyball at Goddard.

“Dewayne (Roberts) decided he’d go do girls volleyball, and good for him,” Barbour said. “When there’s a sport that you truly love, you just can’t stay away from it. And he was missing that so I wish him the best of luck with his girls and his season. Goddard’s always had a reputation for having a good volleyball team, so I wish them the best of luck and him as well.”