The Mesa Community College men’s soccer team’s season did not end the way they were hoping, as they fell in the ACCAC semi-final to Pima 3-1 on Oct. 25.
To most, the season is viewed as a success, especially coming off of a less than ideal season in the 2021-22 campaign, when the team went 4-9-1 overall with a 7-2-1 conference record.
After last season, head coach Brian Ronan and the returning players on the team got hard at work in the offseason.
They began working in groups preparing for the season ahead, and the offseason work is something Ronan believes helped them have such success this season.
“It’s a combination that the guys that played last year and went through such a tough season, I really appreciate the sophomores that played last year that committed to coming back,” said Ronan, “We put in a lot of hard work with our small core group in the spring, lifted weights and did fitness and that was a focus for us to establish a foundation for the upcoming season.”
When MCC played on their home field, they were especially dominant, boasting a 7-2-1 record.
On average, the Thunderbirds would score nearly four goals a game at home while holding their opponents to just under two goals a contest.
After losing their first home game to Phoenix College, MCC did not lose a home game until their semi-final playoff defeat.
The team found themselves in many close games, as they had six games where the winning team only won by a single goal. Due to timely goal scoring, MCC ended as the victor in all of those match ups.
“There were many games where we won a game 2-1 where a different guy scored the game winning goal, so it was truly an all around offensive team effort which I really like,” said Ronan.
The team’s ability to keep their pedal to the metal, and keep their heads in the game even when they might be up on a team by four or even nine goals was encouraging for Ronan.
“It was huge for us to consistently compete regardless of who we were playing against or the score in the game, to continue to compete to win games,” said Ronan.
The team as a whole did not have one or two star players that the group would turn to if they needed a player to lift them to victory.
Their leading scorer, Adnan Elaqad, had six goals on the season, while the second leading goal scorer, Marco Martinez and Adrian Beltran, each had four.
Compared to other teams like Pima Community College or Phoenix College, whose leading scorer had 15 and 16 goals respectively, MCC appeared to be a very complete team.
Though the individual statistics did not pop off the scoresheet for MCC, players excelling in their roles was enough for multiple players to earn All-ACCAC and All-Region honors.
Adnan Elaqad was named to the All-ACCAC First Team and the All-Region Division II Second Team. As mentioned before, Elaqad led the team with six goals, while also leading the team in points with 13.
Marco Martinez was named All-ACCAC Second Team and All-Region Division II Second Team. Martinez recorded four goals for the team this season, while notching four assists with 25 shots in the year.
Kayden Burnes was named All-ACCAC Second Team and the All-Region Division II First Team. Burnes’ stats don’t jump off the page,, but the impact he made on the field in each game was obvious to anyone watching.
Burnes was called upon to defend the opposing team’s best offensive player in many games during the year. During games when the Thunderbirds had offensive throw-ins, Burnes was tasked with setting his teammates up with scoring opportunities with his throw-ins.