Area alums lead inaugural KCKCC women’s soccer team
When it came time for Kansas City Kansas Community College women’s soccer coach Ruben Rodriguez to choose three captains for the inaugural athletic program, one area athlete stood out.
Shawnee Mission North alum Gabby Martinez had sent Rodriguez an email seeking out the position, touting her skills.
“She was very confident and looked like she was a self-motivator,” Rodriguez said. “I was impressed with that. That’s why I finally decided to make her the captain.”
The all-freshman Lady Blue Devil squad, with Martinez at the helm, finished its first season last month with a loss to Barton County Community College to finish 1-15.
The freshman midfielder was one of two area athletes that played for the Blue Devils this season, with Shawnee Mission Northwest graduate Ericka Marquez regularly contributing to the squad as a forward.
As a glance at its record indicates, the new program struggled in its conference, which includes Johnson County Community College and Butler County Community College.
“The results didn’t necessarily go our way,” Rodriguez said.
Acknowledging that the record included a staggering number of losses, Rodriguez was quick to add that more than half of the games were “very close.”
“As far as the performance, we were very satisfied,” he said.
Generally, first-year programs don’t set expectations too high, Rodriguez said, but her team’s were a little bit higher. For Martinez, success isn’t gauged by wins or losses but rather what level the team plays at.
“Record doesn’t mean anything,“ she said. “It’s about how you play on that field and how much you give.”
Marquez, who played junior varsity for the Cougars last season, said losing games was something she had to adjust to.
“I, for myself and for the team, had really high expectations,” Marquez said. “My team was pretty good in high school.”
Starting any program can cause headaches for both athletes and administrators. KCKCC’s late approval of the program last February pushed back recruiting time for the coaching staff by more than two months.
“Anytime you start a new program, you are going to have growing pains,” athletic director Dan Pratt said. “We did not expect to compete with the top level of our conference, but we still did compete.”
Another element serious lacking for the new program this season was a home field. Throughout the season, the Blue Devils played at the Overland Park Soccer Complex almost 25 miles away.
Construction is almost finished on a $5 million soccer, track and baseball complex at the college, slated to be completed early next month.
“It was definitely different,” Martinez said of playing with a new program. “We didn’t have that chemistry.”
Individually, Martinez said, she’s gotten more aggressive throughout the season and she hopes to carry that momentum with her next season.
Rodriguez said both girls bring a unique level of enthusiasm and energy to the team.
“Those girls are very energetic,” he said. “Obviously Gabby brings her leadership qualities, which were an asset to the team. And Ericka, her excitement spreads to the rest of the team.”
Considering where her skills were at toward the beginning of the season, Marquez said she is pleased she survived the season and playing soccer at the collegiate level.
“I definitely have improved and am proud of myself because I didn’t think I would make it,” she said.
On returning next season, Marquez said she is looking forward to getting on the field again and building off the skills developed throughout the last few months.
Endurance and a willingness to compete were among the strengths of the team, Marquez said.
“We’ve developed so far and have gotten so far since the beginning,” she said. “We can work on what we have now and will definitely have something to show them (next season).”