Richland Student Media

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Richland Student Media

Richland Student Media

Dallas


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Richland Chronicle 5/07/24
Richland Chronicle 5/07/24

ONLINE ONLY: T-Duck soccer champs celebrated

Richland’s national champions claim their rings for the sixth consecutive year

The Richland men’s soccer team met for a championship ring ceremony in Guadalupe Hall on the Richland campus May 23 to commemorate the players’ and team’s hard work over the 2023 season, which earned them their sixth consecutive National Junior College Athletic Association championship.

Family and friends joined the players to watch Head Coach Raul Herrera, Dr. Kathryn Eggleston, Richland Campus president, and Sadiaa Jones, Dallas College athletic director, kick off the celebration by speaking about the team’s tremendous season.

“It’s very special, you know, and it’s also history for what Coach Herrera and his team has done, no other teams in NJCAA history have ever done that,” said Jones.  “It’s just a testament of, you know, the great student athletes and the great group of coaches that we have,” she added.

For Coach Herrera, the championship win was humbling. “It’s humbling, you know. Sometimes we take it for granted’ winning so much. I was here when we went nine years without winning as an assistant coach. So, that’s always in the back of my mind,” he said.

After initial remarks, Herrera, Jones and assistant coach Anthony Padilla, called up the excited players to receive their rings.

It was pointed out during the ceremony how hard the group of players work in the classroom as well.

The team has experienced many wins on the soccer fields as well. Some players have earned all-academic student athlete honors and all-American selections from NCJAA.

Sophomore Felipe Escorcia, center midfielder, earned a spot to jump to Division I at SMU later this year.    SMU will change conferences this year.  In July, the SMU Mustangs will leave the AAC (American Athletic Conference) to join the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference).    The ACC hosts some of the top universities across the United States such as Clemson, Notre Dame and Duke

Arath Valdez, T-Duck goalkeeper, said the championship tournament last season really changed the team.

“In the beginning, we were struggling a little bit because we were all new. And, you know, we didn’t really know how to do it. We had chemistry together. But towards the end of the national tournament, we had three clean sheets.”  (A “clean sheet” is when a team wins and does not allow the opposing team to score a goal.)

Valdez added that from that experience he felt the team learned and grew as individuals and as a team. Diego Aguilera, right back defender, concurred with Valdez.  He said that he felt the struggles in the beginning but getting it all together in the end created the chemistry to win the finals.

The Richland men’s soccer team has been consistently dominating in its Division III league of the NCJAA for many years. This is their sixth consecutive championship earned. With this championship, the Thunderducks also lead the NCJAA in overall titles with 12.   In November, they clenched wins over three teams in Gastonia, North Carolina before beating Mohawk Valley Community College from New York to win their 2023 title.

A new season schedule has not been posted yet for the 2024 season, but expect to see the Thunderducks to hit the turf again in the first half of August. Herrera plans on keeping the winning train going next year by continuing to recruit players correctly.

“I’m trying to recruit not only good players, but good kids that are hungry,” Herrera said.  “When you’re a junior college player and you want to be successful, you got to be hungry. You’ve got to have a chip on your shoulder, you got to prove yourself,” he said, adding “So try to recruit the same type of profile of kid that can play, yeah, that has quality, is a good player but it’s hungry to move on and play at a higher level and get different and better opportunities.”

The Richland men’s soccer team pose for photos at this year’s national championship ring ceremony in Guadalupe Hall May 23. (Staff Photo/Jorge Sanchez)
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