It’s no big surprise that the 2016 Colt soccer team looks quite a bit different from the 2015 squad. It’s something that happens every year at NMMI. Combine graduation with former players focusing on other projects, and coach John Barbour said the team is about 50 percent returners — from last year’s varsity and JV — and 50 percent newcomers.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not looking forward to the season.
“We’re going to be OK,” he said. “We’ve got some new guys in and we’re kind of excited. We won’t really know what we have until we start playing, but I’m excited to see how they come together and how they gel.”
The Colts graduated their record-setting scorer, Everardo Ahumada, and backfielder Hans Von Bertrab Madero. But returning will be junior Nicholas Rodriguez, who’s been with NMMI since he was a freshman.
“He’s done a great job as an outside fullback, so I’m expecting a lot from him and will be relying on him a lot,” the coach said.
Expected to possibly fill Ahumada’s shoes is Kamil Alaoui, a junior from Casablanca, Morocco.
“He’s a big strong kid, and as long as he stays healthy, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do at his position,” Barbour said.
Another name Barbour picked out early is sophomore Ivan Gonzales, “a really good player. Strong. I’m anxious to see how he does.”
But the biggest plus on this year’s team — something that’s been missing for a number of years — is a goal keeper.
“This year we were blessed with a number of people who came out who have at least some goaltending experience and obviously have some skill at that position as well.”
Barbour said Luis Ortiz, a sophomore from Mexico, will be No. 1 at that spot.
“He’s quick moving,” the coach said. “He’s a little small, but I think he’s going to be good, and better than what we had in the past.”
But it’s still early in the season, and things will undoubtedly change.
“We’re just going to have to see how things progress,” Barbour said. “We’re just trying people out, and positions may change as the season goes on.”
The season itself starts Saturday in Sandia Park, when the Colts play no-longer-in-district East Mountain. That could be one of the few easy matches for NMMI, as their pre-district includes AAAAA Lovington, Artesia and Goddard, AAAAAA Clovis and possibly even a pair of matches vs. Roswell and a second against Artesia.
“It’s going to be kind of a tough schedule, but I think it’s going to be good for us,” Barbour said. “To really push ourselves a little bit more.”
And, of course, there’s the Coyote Classic, which will is set for Sept. 2-3 at Cielo Grande.
“I know it’s going to be tough and I think we’ll be ready for it,” Barbour said. “And once we get through that, we’ll really kind of have an idea of where we sit and what we need to work on. We’ll use this preseason to fine tune everything to get ready for district play.”
Which this year, includes some big changes.
Ruidoso and Portales remain, but former AAAAA Moriarty moves down to AAAA and Hope Christian comes into District 3-4A. Barbour isn’t sure quite what to expect.
“I hope it’s going to be difficult, but I hope we’ll do really well,” he said. “But you just don’t know until you get into it. We’re just going to have to work hard and represent when we get to our district games.”
And with the goals to win district, make it to state and then win the blue trophy, Barbour is just hoping for the best from his younger-than-usual
“We’ve got a young team,” he said. “I don’t have as many seniors on the squad as we’ve had the last few years, but I think we have a good group of guys who are working hard and we’re just going to do the best we can.”
With three returners, a solid freshman runner and four crossovers from the tennis team, the Bronco cross country squad is looking good heading into the first meet of the season.
“My goal is to compete as a team,” said head coach Jan Olesinski. “You never know. It’s still a long ways to go. But my goal is to go to nationals and finish as a team.”
Last season, with only three runners competing at nationals, the Broncos had two top-30 finishers: Katarzyna Rosikon, 25th; and Valeriia Uvarova, 28th. Amy Farfan Aguilar finished 72nd, but it wasn’t her best competition.
So with all three returning as sophomores, Olesinski is thinking positive.
“So far at practice, everybody’s been running well,” he said. “They’re healthy and they feel like they’re better than last year, they’re optimistic and they like being here.”
Plus, being sophomores, they’ve settled into the NMMI routine.
“They know the system, they know everything,” the coach said. “I hope those three girls will run better than last year.”
And, the coach has added a fourth scholarship runner, Sandra Szpott, from Poland, who he’s very impressed with.
“She looks like she’s a very good runner,” he said. “A good addition, and just how good she is we’ll find out this Friday.”
Olesinski and Lady Bronco tennis coach Dan O’Connell also have agreed to once again trade athletes, with four netters running this fall.
Lorish Puluspene is a sophomore who ran last year, getting some respectable times and finishes. Mikayla Lopez, from Saipan; Becsave Pacheco, Dexter; and Francisca Nyarko, Ghana, are freshmen tennis players who will also run.
And while Olesinski hasn’t had much of a chance to watch his runners — he’s just back from Rio de Janiero, where he watched Roswell pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher finish a respectable 11th in the Olympics — he’s seen enough to have confidence.
“I think they’ll be a very good at No. 5 and 6. I think they’ll be good additions,” he said.
The team heads to Lubbock Friday for the Lubbock Christian Rust Buster, a fun relay that sees two runners combine to form a team. Last year, Rosikon and Uvarova finished second against NJCAA, NAIA and NCAA runners, and while Olesinki has been told the course will be harder, “If they improve their times, that’s good.”
And overall, he’s looking forward to a strong season.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve got eight runners and good girls. The team has a positive attitude and is working hard.”
NMMI Sports Press
For the second day in a row, the Colt volleyball team played a five-game match, only unlike Monday, this time they came out on the losing end.
Playing Hondo, a team with only seven total players — and their eighth grader never came off the bench — NMMI fell apart at the end, losing 25-15, 28-26, 23-25, 14-25, 5-15.
“We started off strong,” said coach Stephanie Schooley. “My old players did not step up and were not consistent enough to finish a match. They have got to learn to play an entire match at the same consistent level, and we did not do that at all tonight.”
Game 1 and even most of Game 2 made it look like the Colts were going to run away with the match.
After a four-point serving string by Kelsey Duru — with two aces — NMMI led 11-4. They made it 19-8 on a five-serve, three-ace string by Demitra Ulibarri, and while the Eagles battled back a bit, the lead was too much to overcome.
Game 2 was back and forth before the Colts went up 16-11 on strng serves by Ulibarri and Grace Tompkins. But this game foreshadowed what was to come, as Hondo battled back to tie it at 22-all. Neither team was able to score the winning point with ties through 26-26, until NMMI finally eked out the victory on an ace by Duru.
It was NMMI’s turn to come from behind in Game 3, but after tying the match at 13-all, they couldn’t get the points needed to put them in the lead. With Hondo at game point, 24-20, NMMI got the ball back on an Eagle service error then Tompkins served an ace and closed it to 22-24. But a ball in the net gave Hondo the victory.
And Games 4 and 5 were all Eagles.
NMMI went up 4-0 to open Game 4, but then a four-point serving string by Hondo’s Nina Herrera made it 5-4 Eagles, and freshman Carolina Salcido served for 10 straight with four aces to basically put the game out of reach. And in Game 5, the Colts only managed one offensive point — a shot that tied the game at 4-4, before Hondo went on an 11-1 string to take the match.
After looking better initially than they did against Gateway Monday, NMMI simply fell apart.
“It was a mental game, and they have got to be mentally tougher to play this game if they want to win another match,” Schooley said.
And it won’t get any easier, as they travel to Corona for their first road game of the season Thursday.
“Corona’s always tough, just like Hondo’s always tough, and we’ve got a lot of work to do before we face Corona on Thursday,” the coach said.
NMMI Sports Press
Change is the word to describe the Bronco football team this season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The NMMI gridders will be playing in a new conference — the Southwest Junior College Football Conference — with four new coaches to guide them and a lot of freshmen on board. But even though the Broncos placed 39 players at four-year schools last year, head coach Joe Forchtner doesn’t sound concerned.
“We obviously lost a lot, but we’ve got some guys who got a lot of playing time coming back this year,” he said.
Leading the sophomores will be wide receiver Sedarius Young, who led the nation in yards per reception in 2015. Jarvis Scott and David Goodwin are returning running backs, and although Kody Washington was injured, he played a lot early in the season so has some game experience.
Edward Taufa’asau is a returning starting left tackle and Kordell Va’a played significant minutes on the offensive line.
Obviously, the Broncos have big shoes to fill with the loss of Conner Cramer, who went to New Mexico State University after one season at the Institute, but Forchtner is looking to sophomore Jordan Taamu and transfer Jarrad Hayes, a redshirt sophomore, to take up the slack.
“We’ve got a couple of quarterbacks who went through the spring with us, so even though they don’t have a lot of game experience, they have time under their belt in the program,” he said.
And Taamu did see limited playing time last season when Cramer was hurt or during mop-up times.
On defense, “The good news is we return most of our defensive secondary,” the coach said.
That includes corners Davon Conyers; Shamar Busby; and Brian Henderson, “All who played last year a lot.”
Theo Hyppolite is back at safety and Diontez Champion at strong safety.
“Those guys played a lot of minutes last year,” Forchtner said, as did defensive lineman Nathaniel Anderson and inside backer Randy Hooks
“We’ve got a good core of guys,” Forchtner said. “We lost a lot, but I feel pretty good about the guys we’ve got coming back.”
He’s equally excited about the freshmen.
“I feel like we have a lot of guys who are very athletic and work really hard when they’re on the field,” Forchtner said. “Kind of the challenge right now is to get those guys to learn our system. Athletically, they’re fine, but there’s some pretty steep learning curves coming into college football and knowing the system – the offense and defense, the alignments, the calls, the new techniques, all that stuff. They have to learn so much and they’ve been here for two weeks. Hopefully this week we can make a big jump and really get to where we want to be going into the first game.”
And that’s not far away. The Broncos open at home vs. Air Force Prep Aug. 27, which, at the time of the interview for this story, was only 11 days away.
“I feel good for where we’re at,” Forchtner said. “If we improve, I think I’ll be really excited about where we’re at. If we don’t, if we don’t make good improvements, especially this week, going into the game week next week, I’ll be pretty nervous.”
What he isn’t nervous about the is Broncos’ new conference, instead calling the move from the WSFL to the SWJCFC “interesting.”
“I’ve heard a lot about the conference. We’ve watched a lot of tape on them. We’ve played teams from that conference before, but we’ve never gone all the way through that conference schedule. So we don’t really know what we’ve got in store for ourselves, but I know were going to have to show up every week. It’s the same as it was in the WSFL. If you don’t show up, you get beat. If you do, you can win. You can win or lose every week.”
The league, which includes Texas teams Cisco, Trinity Valley, Kilgore, Blinn, Tyler and Navarro along with NE Oklahoma A&M, has three teams ranked in the top 20 nationally: Trinity Valley (No. 3, just behind Snow); Navarro (9); and Tyler (13, behind Arizona Western.)
As those rankings show, the WSFL was no slouch, but the quality of the teams in the SWJCFC, from top to bottom, is impressive.
“Kind of just from talking to people, this conference has a lot of depth, where you can’t really go into the schedule and say, ‘OK. We should win this one. We should win that one,’” Forchtner said.
And after living up to their motto of “Redemption” last year — finishing second in the conference after being ranked dead last at the start — Forchtner sees the same attitudes and goals on the field this year.
“We were five points away from winning the conference championship outright. So our focus will be the same thing. Grindhouse. Blue collar. Physical play. Disciplined play,” he said. “I think even though we had that last year, there were a few mental letdowns on critical plays. Extra points. Punts. Things like that, where it probably cost us a regular-season conference championship. So it’s play physical. Be blue collar. Do your job and focus on the details so those close game like that we can win.”
One other change for the Broncos is their coaching staff.
Forchtner is back for his fifth year at the helm, with Drew Thatcher back as fifth-year assistant head coach/offensive coordinator and Brian Vaughn in his third year as defensive coordinator.
But then there are four new coaches, including former Bronco player Kurt Taufa’asau at D-Line; Robert Rodriguez, a “very experienced” O-Line coach; John Parcells, who coached high school sports for 25 years; and Brandon Payne, a former Lobo and “very, very good player.
“I love our staff. It’s new, but I love these guys and what they bring to the table,” Forchtner said.
And even with all that change, Forchtner is hoping the outcome will be the same or better than last year: a solid performance with a high conference finish.
“The way that the coaches picked it, they picked us low. That’s OK,” he said. “They picked us low last year. We’re the new guy in this conference. We’re going to have to prove ourselves.”
NMMI Sports Press
The Colt volleyball team opened the fall season with a marathon five-game victory over cross-town rival Gateway Christian.
Playing in a packed Godfrey Athletic Center — filled with parents from both sides, cadets, teachers and administrators — NMMI won 25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 18-25, 15-7.
“It was very exciting,” said head coach Stephanie Schooley. “Maybe a little closer than I would have liked it to be, but it was a good start, I think. Good to see where we are, and we obviously have a lot to work on.”
As the finals show, Games 1 and 2 were back and forth and never more than one or two points apart until the very end.
In Game 1, the Lady Warriors went up 22-19 before giving the ball back to NMMI, where Grace Tompkins came to the line and served five straight, with the Colts getting the win on a Gateway hitting error.
Game 2 was equally close, with each side getting a short run or two — Tompkins started out with three points to put the Colts up 4-1, then Kelsey Duru picked up four, including an ace to make it 17-14 NMMI — but GCS held on for the victory.
Game 3 was more of the same, with Demitra “D” Ulibarri putting the Colts up 13-12 and freshman Mia Walker getting the home team within a point of victory before losing serve, but NMMI again took the win on a hitting error by Gateway.
Game 4 was long runs by both sides with Lady Colt Abigail Valadez hitting three for a 5-1 lead, then Lady Warrior Sarah Martin coming back with a seven point run to go up 8-5.
Duru made it 11-8 NMMI, but the then Warrior Mattie Green ran off eight straight, including a pair of aces. The Colts could only manage four more points in the game, which sent the match to Game 5.
And, as in the previous four, it started out close. NMMI went up 2-0 on two aces by Ulibarri. GCS came back with four points, then Tompkins made it 7-4. But this time it was Gateway that couldn’t pick up many more points, as Valadez served for three and Duru closed out the victory with three, the final point an ace just on the line.
Both teams looked a bit confused on the floor, and Schooley agreed they were.
“We are running around out there still not sure of what position we’re supposed to be in at what time. So there’s a lot of confusion on that. But now we know what we need to work on,” she said. “We obviously have not had enough time for the girls to learn exactly where they need to be in each rotation. It’s going to take more practicing and more game time for them to just learn it.”
But she saw improvement as the match went on.
“I liked in the end that they started communicating better,” the coach said. “We still have a long way to go with our communication, but they started coming together in the middle and cheering each other on and playing with a more positive attitude. In the beginning we were playing very timid and playing not to make a mistake. And in the end we started playing volleyball.”
The Lady Colts will be back in action Tuesday when they host perennial powerhouse Hondo.
“Hondo’s always a tough team,” Schooley said. “It’s not going to be just an easy game. Nothing’s an easy game for us. But we’ve got to step it back out tomorrow and see what we can do.”
The Colt JV had a slightly easier match, winning the first set 25-16, then came back from a 9-2 deficit to win the second 25-23.