CHEYENNE – Slow starts have been a thorn in the collective side of the Laramie County Community College men’s soccer team this fall.

That wasn’t an issue for the No. 4-ranked Golden Eagles on Friday afternoon. They scored all of their goals during the first half of a 3-0 win over Western Nebraska Community College to advance to the Region IX championship game.

A National Junior College Athletic Association tournament berth will be on the line when LCCC (14-1-1) hosts Otero Junior College (La Junta, Colo.) at 2:30 p.m. today.

“The first half was excellent, but we saved our slow start for the second half,” Eagles coach Vince Gibson said. “I don’t know why that was. Hopefully, we can play a complete match (today).

“In the first half, we calmed down a little bit, found feet, got numbers up and weren’t rushing things.”

Sophomore midfielder Omar Castruita got LCCC on the scoreboard in the 18th minute when he chipped a pass across the penalty area from the right side. That pass bent just inside the far upright and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.

“I call those cross shots,” Castruita said with a laugh. “I was trying to put it on frame, but I was also trying to make a good pass that would give someone a chance to run on it and score.

“Once the ball left my foot, I knew it was a great ball. Nobody touched it, and that left the goalkeeper confused and allowed the ball to go in.”

The Eagles doubled the lead in the 24th when Daniel Barajas played a pass into the box that found the feet of Jared Ramos. Ramos found the ball in stride and tucked it between Western Nebraska goalkeeper Imanal Munoz and the left upright for a 2-0 advantage.

Sophomore Manny Tapia rounded out the scoring in the 39th minute by heading a Barajas pass into the goal after an LCCC corner kick.

The Eagles finished with 20 shots, including nine on goal. Twelve of those shots came in the opening half. They had several chances clang off the goal frame or sail just high or wide during the match’s first 45 minutes.

“We knew they were going to come out and play us tough, so we had to come out and go after them and get as many goals as we could right from the get-go,” Castruita said.

LCCC limited the Cougars (8-6-1) to just four shots, including one on goal late in the first half.

“The first couple matches we played this year, we weren’t really defending as a unit,” sophomore defender Jose Bencomo said. “To me, the defending starts with the attackers pressuring defenders when they win the ball, then it goes to (midfielders), the defenders and the goalkeeper.

“We started playing a lot better defense as a team after a few struggles, and we have continued that. For us defenders, having a clean sheet is just the same as us scoring a goal. It’s something that’s hard to do, but it’s the best feeling in the world.”


Halftime: 3-0.

Goals: LCCC, Castruita (Lopez), 18. LCCC, Ramos (Barajas), 24. LCCC, Tapia (Barajas), 38.

Shots: WNCC 4, LCCC 20. Shots on goal: WNCC 1, LCCC 9. Saves: WNCC 6 (Munoz), LCCC 1 (Domyan).

Corner kicks: WNCC 1, LCCC 7. Offsides: WNCC 1, LCCC 3. Fouls: WNCC 17, LCCC 13. Yellow cards: WNCC 4 (Rafaela, 26. Pelzer, 42. Collins, 62. Cerros, 65); LCCC 1 (Bencomo, 53).

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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