The Western Nebraska Community College soccer teams will open their season on Friday with renewed hopes for a positive season with the talent that is returning and coming in.

Both teams will be in action Friday at Sterling, Colorado, with the Cougar men facing Northeastern Junior College at 11 a.m. followed by the Cougar women meeting Hutchinson Community College at 1 p.m.

The Cougar women will wrap up the weekend slate of games when they face Northeastern Junior College on Sunday at 1 p.m.

WNCC sophomore Hailey Kwiatkowski, who missed the last two seasons because of an injury, is excited to starting the season and getting on the field in a real game.

“We are looking forward to the season starting this Friday. The team is preforming really well as a whole in practice,” Kwiatkowski said. “Coming away with wins will come down to our ability to stay composed and focused throughout the game.”

Andrea Jimenez, who will be in her third year playing at WNCC as a COVID sophomore, is excited to get going in her final year.

“In my honest opinion, I think our girls are set to go for these upcoming games,” she said. “We have been putting a good works shift during training. As long as we’re able to apply all the principles we should be getting as much wins as possible.”

While the women will have two games this weekend and the men’s team one, both teams are loaded with talent.

“The talent on our team is amazing,” Kwiatkowski said. “We have a lot of freshmen really stepping up along with a lot of sophomores that are hungry for a title.”

Jimenez is one of those players that will be relied on score for the Cougars this season.

“The talent level is pretty high and the coaches have done a great job applying all the talent into one,” she said. “The chemistry that this year team has in certainly unexplainable.”

The last time the Cougar women won a regional title was back in 2008. The only other time the Cougar women won a regional title was in 2003.

“The season will be great as long as we keep showing up and putting in the work at practice,” Kwiatkowski said.

As for the Cougar men, they will open the season on Friday against Region IX foe Northeastern Junior College. Northeastern already played three games and are 1-2 on the season. The Plainsmen defeated York College 9-2 while falling to Barton Community College 3-0 and Dodge City Community College 1-0 in double overtime.

Last year the Cougar men went 0-1-1 with the Plainsmen, tying the Plainsmen 1-1 at home and falling 1-0 on the road.

The Cougar men finished 8-6-2 a year ago and returning one of the region’s top goal scorers in Rodrigo Cercal. Cercal was Region IX Freshman of the Year last year when he scored 15 goals.

The Cougar men return 12 players from a year ago that saw playing action. Besides Cercal, the other returners include Oziel Carmargo and Lincoln Frank of Scottsbluff; Paulo Henrique, Rennan Sousa, Matheus Nascimento, and Gabriel Santos of Brazil; Paul Cerros and Luis Molina of Rifle, Colorado; Tom Pelzer of Bad Sackingen, Germany; and Dante Rafaela of Thornton, Colorado.

The Cougar men have hopes of going further this season after falling in the region semifinals a year ago.

As for the Cougar women, they have eight players returning that saw action a year ago. Besides Kwiatkowski, who didn’t play a year ago, the returners include Izzy and Cali Wright from Scottsbluff; Hazel Cardenas and Vanessa Vasquez from Aurora, Colorado; Yoseline Hernandez and Yasmin Rojas from Commerce City, Colorado; Jimenez from Denver, Colorado; and Vicky Granda from Quito, Ecuador.

The newcomers for the women’s soccer team include Taila Viera, Sara Lourenco and Debora Lopes from Brazil; Jackie Castro from Aurora, Colorado; Aileen Perez from Thornton, Colorado; and Summer Parnell from Hastings.

Jimenez said they are taking a good mental game into the season this year.

“For the season’s outlook, I would say that we are strong enough technically to go all and win the Region IX title,” she said. “Like the coaches say, ‘it’s all mental’.”