Bobcat men's soccer team hopes to continue success

Written By: Shawn Wansley
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Date Submitted: 2010-08-23 15:08:16

 By Shawn Wansley

JCJC Sports Information Director

ELLISVILLE – The Jones County Junior College Bobcats have some tradition going in men’s soccer.

And head coach Oleg Baleyev hopes they can continue their winning ways in 2010.

“We’ve had some success the past two years,” he said. “We have made it to the (MACJC) ‘Final Four’ and we want to build on that success. This year, our goal is to make it to the finals.

“But that will take a lot of hard work and dedication from our players.”

JCJC has finished second in the MACJC South Division the past two years and has qualified for the playoffs both years. They have advanced to the state semifinals two years in a row and have been eliminated both times by eventual champion Hinds.

The Bobcats have gone 11-4 in each of the past two seasons, but Baleyev knows it will be difficult to match that record this year. The Bobcats have 16 freshmen on their 20-man roster.

“Junior colleges are noted for a lot of turnover,” he said. “Every year, you have to recruit at least half of your team. This year, we have 20 players with 16 freshmen. Out of those 16 freshmen, 14 played at different high schools.

“In a way that’s good for recruiting purposes in the following year, but on the other side of the coin, it is challenging for this year. You have to work very hard for two weeks before the season and everybody has played for a different coach and has a different style.”

Baleyev said the team has been efficient in its preparation for the upcoming season, but he says they cannot afford to lose concentration.

“It’s very critical for me and them to stay focused and be on the same page everyday,” he said. “We have to work hard to blend together and have good team chemistry.”

The Bobcats return four players from last year, including All-MACJC performer Patrick Coates of Northwest Rankin, Zac Rodgers from Florence, Josh Corley from South Jones and Mackenzie Johnson from Northwest Rankin. Coates and Rogers are midfielders, Corley is a forward and Johnson is a defender.

Coates, Corley and Northwest Rankin freshman forward Jake Benton have been elected team captains by the squad.

Rounding out the roster are all freshmen: goalkeeper Brian Hammons of Long Beach; forwards Manuel Ferrer of Miami, Fla., and Nick Peden of Gautier; defenders Marcus West of Petal, Aaron James of Richland, John Harris of Russell Christian Academy, Logan Martin of Florence, Isaac Coleman of West Jones and Brandon Lee of Pearl River Central; and midfielders Dillon Boatner, Mason Tabb and Zac Tabb of Clarkdale, Giuliano Mancini of Miami, Fla., Kyle Upchurch of Terry and Michael Skaggs of Pearl. Adalberto Martinez and Trequan Hollingsworth are the managers.

Even though the Bobcats have numerous new faces, Baleyev believes the squad has a chance to be successful.

“Generally speaking, we have skills, depth and balance,” he said. “That’s a pretty unique situation. We feel confident that we should have a good season. But it all depends on how they blend together and what kind of work ethic they are going to show in the training sessions.

“Just because we have some good names on paper, does not mean we are going to be good on the field. But we are working on it and we should get there.”

Baleyev, who will again be assisted by Ivan Lopez, said the Bobcats have been fortunate in preseason because they have not sustained any injuries.

“One good thing so far is that we have not had any soccer-related injuries,” he said. “We have not had any serious pulls or that type of thing. We have approached our training sessions very smartly. If there is a slight pull, we send them to the athletic trainers and within a day or two, they are able to jump back in and work at 100 percent.

“With 20 players, it’s very critical to have everybody ready because we cannot afford to lose anyone. It’s going to be hot and to play a 90-plus minute game, you have to have everybody ready to go.”

The level of competition in the state is constantly improving. Baleyev could not say who would be contenders in the South Division or across the state, but he said the Bobcats would take a steady approach to each game.

“I try to stay away from singling out teams as far as who is good and who is not,” he said. “Like I said, junior colleges have a lot of turnover each year and every team can strike and hurt you. All of the teams recruit well each year.”

Baleyev, who has posted an impressive record of 37-21-3 in his first four years as head coach, borrows a line from JCJC President Dr. Jesse Smith when talking about the upcoming season.

“As our president says, we don’t want to win them all, we just want to win the games we play,” he quipped.

JCJC opens the season at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Itawamba Community College. JCJC will play their home opener at 4 p.m. on Aug. 31 against Northwest Mississippi Community College at the Bobcat Soccer Field.


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