By Amber Dowdy

MUSKEGON – There are two ways to look at the coming season for the Muskegon Community College men’s soccer team.LSJ Logo incert

On the one hand, the Jayhawks will have to move on without 16 sophomores who graduated in the spring. That’s a lot of talent to replace.

But on the bright side, MCC returns its leading scorer from last year’s 10-10 team, as well as two quality goaltenders. That’s a strong foundation to build on.

“We have a lot of potential this year,” said MCC Coach Ben Ritsema. “It’s been a big learning period for the new guys, but they’re working very hard. We just have to get them used to playing at a college level, and then we have to give them a chance to get to know each other better on the field.”

The Jayhawk offense will be built around sophomore forward Miguel Flores, a Muskegon High School graduate who led MCC last season with 13 goals and five assists.

“Having my leading scorer back this year is pretty uncommon for junior college, and he is going to be a big asset to us this year,” Ritsema said.

Goalkeepers Hayden Collins (Whitehall) and Ben Fails (Algoma Christian) will be protecting the net again for MCC this season. Opponents were only able to get 37 goals past them last season, and they figure to be even better this fall.

When asked what part of the team he is most comfortable with entering the season, Ritsema said, “My goaltenders, absolutely. I have two keepers who I am very comfortable with, which is big for us.”

Other returnees are midfielders Jake Rajewski, who made the Michigan Community College Athletic Association All-Freshmen team last year, as well as defenders Kyle Winger (Fruitport) and Matt Kowalski (North Muskegon).

The Jayhawks have an extremely promising freshman class. Just a few of the new players who will contribute this year are forwards Jubenal Rodriguez (Muskegon), Franklin Rodriguez (Sparta), Jamal Yarbrough (Grand Haven), Noah Hendricks (Fruitport), and Eddie Miriles (Holland), along with defenders Drake Gomez (Muskegon), Cameron Bradshaw (Muskegon), and David Krapohl, who was a member of the Grand Haven High School district championship team last season.

The Jayhawks will open on Aug. 27 at Lakeland Community College and Aug. 28 at Cuyahoga Community College, before coming home on Aug. 31 to play Jackson College.