Otero forward Ousseynou Cisse kicks the ball at LCCC keeper Declan Domyan Saturday, October 12, 2019 at Laramie County Community College. The Laramie County Community College boys soccer team defeat the Otero Junior College soccer team 4-1. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Declan Domyan always knew he wasn’t going to be handed Laramie County Community College’s starting goalkeeper job, even though he earned first team All-Region IX honors as a freshman.

The Johannesburg, South Africa, product knew the job was always up for grabs and went to the player who was playing the best at any given time and not the player with the best résumé.

Domyan knew that from experience, as he didn’t see his first playing time with the Golden Eagles until the sixth game of the 2019 campaign. He never relinquished his hold on that starting spot after beating out sophomore Tanner Riedel and freshman Mario Munoz for the job.

Despite that knowledge, Domyan wasn’t as sharp as he should have been through LCCC’s first three matches of this season. He surrendered four goals and made just 10 saves during a stretch that saw the Eagles go 1-1-1.

“He had a little sophomore-itis, and it seemed like he came in thinking he was just going to be the starter,” LCCC coach Vince Gibson said. “We wanted him to be a sophomore leader and point the finger at himself instead of pointing it at everyone else.

“He needed to take ownership of his play and work ethic in practice. Skill-wise, all the tools were there, but he didn’t always have the right attitude or bring the best effort.”

That’s why freshman Brian Fierro started the Eagles’ next two matches and recorded three saves and just one goal against during a pair of victories.

Losing his starting job didn’t sit well with Domyan, so he approached the coaching staff to see what he needed to do to win his job back.

“I got dropped from the starting spot mainly because of my mentality,” Domyan said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, and as soon as one mistake happened, more would come because I wouldn’t let that first mistake go.

“I needed to start being calm after mistakes and calm myself and the boys down. I needed to control things back there instead of losing my head.”

Domyan responded to his coaches’ advice by being the first player in the weight room and on the practice field and being a leader in both areas. The change was apparent the first week Domyan was benched, but Gibson wanted to make sure the growth was permanent before inserting him back into the starting lineup.

“He needed to do things the right way and keep doing them the right way, and that’s what he’s done,” Gibson said.

Domyan gave up just one goal and posted 35 saves over his next four starts. He repeated as a first team all-region pick to help LCCC (8-2-2) win the Region IX title and advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament.

The No. 12-seeded Eagles open pool play in that event at 9 a.m. today in Wichita, Kansas, against top-seeded Iowa Western Community College.

Getting benched lit a fire inside Domyan, but Fierro provides daily motivation.

“He has been amazing to have on this team,” Domyan said. “Every day, it’s a battle between me and him. We’re competitive, but friendly. I know he pushes me to be better, and I hope I push him, as well.”

As a freshman, Domyan posted 11 wins, with seven shutouts. He stopped 44 shots and allowed just 13 goals in 15 matches.

Domyan’s relaxed approach to the start of this season wasn’t limited to just him, sophomore defender Ethan Mathis said.

“I honestly think we were all a little guilty of coasting because we were so proud to have made history last year (by being the first LCCC team to make nationals),” the Cheyenne Central graduate said. “We needed to realize this was a new year, and that took some time. Eventually, we got back to it, and embraced the new challenges.”

The highlight of his season came when he made a diving stop during a penalty kick shootout victory that helped LCCC clinch last year’s NJCAA tourney berth. He had another difficult save in the waning moments of a 1-0 win over Otero Junior College during the Region IX championship that helped the Eagles punch their second ticket to nationals.

“(Otero’s) guy just ripped a shot inside the 18, and he made a big-time save,” Mathis said. “We have confidence in him and know we can count on him.

“He doesn’t get many chances because we play such great team defense, but he’s there whenever we need him.”

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

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