There’s a cultural shift under construction on the soccer field at Hughes Stadium.
The City College women’s soccer program has labored through trying times over the past decade. The Panthers’ last winning season came in 2006 — which was also the last time they reached the postseason — and they haven’t won a single Big 8 Conference game since 2009. To endure and overcome that kind of stigma is an imposing challenge for any athlete, in any sport, at any level.
“It’s been a while,” said coach Jang-Ha Oh, entering his 16th season on the sidelines for the Panthers. “What all coaches ask is to be mentally strong. High school soccer is like this, and then college soccer is like, ‘Boom!’ Jump two more steps.”
Still, Oh and the 2017 Panthers persevere, and the early part of this season has provided a glimpse of hope and higher expectations.
As the team grinded through practices in sweltering, triple-digit heat through the end of August, the Panthers rewarded themselves with a 3-0 home victory over De Anza College in their first game of the season on Aug. 25. Jacqueline Santana, Savannah Potter and Jasmaine Lubinsky all netted goals, while Fatima Sarmienta stopped four shots to help the Panthers start 2017 in the win column.
The Panthers have since recorded a 1-1 tie against Oxnard, and a 2-0 loss to Citrus College in the Sea Breeze Tournament at Oxnard College Sept. 2–3, before quickly regrouping to beat Napa Valley College on Sept. 5.
“We’re just trying to change the mentality,” said sophomore co-captain Luzi Ramirez. “It’s mind over body. When you’re tired, don’t be so much in your head as much as, ‘You can do it. You can finish it. You have a whole team supporting you’.”
The Panthers went 2-20 last season while still struggling to find that first league win in nearly eight years, but Oh believes the time is now for the Panthers’ fortunes to veer back in the right direction.
“This is the year,” he said. “We want to see more of our style. We did well in some moments, but we still need to improve. Next year we’ll have a minimum of 10 to 13 players coming back as solid sophomores. This is the year we’re going to build up.”
Co-captain Jessica Camacho and Marissa Amaro join Ramirez as the only returning players from 2016. Having only three sophomores on a 22-person roster has the potential to create a raw, immature atmosphere, but some of the freshmen are garnering high praise from their captains.
Arianna Gonzalez scored a pair of goals in the 4-1 victory over Napa, while Taylor Crowley, who had an assist in the win over De Anza, and Maryann Hoang are already stepping into leadership roles, according to Ramirez.
“They’re making a great example for the future team,” said Ramirez. “My freshman year, I was very intimidated. I wouldn’t speak up or call for the ball. They’re giving directions to their teammates very respectfully and giving good criticism.”
The foundation for the Panthers’ 2017 campaign concludes with one more tune-up game on Sept. 8 at Cuesta College before Big 8 play begins Sept. 12 against American River College at Hughes Stadium at 6 p.m.
“We’re underdogs. Everyone thinks we’re going to lose, so what is there to lose?” said Camacho. “Give it all you’ve got. Play every game like it’s your last because you never know what’s going to happen.”
For more info on City College women’s soccer, visit sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/wsoc.