On the Way to a National Championship Soccer Season

October 27, 2005

Team members may hail from such distant places Nigeria, Ecuador, Tunisia, Ghana, Jamaica, and Brazil. But collectively, they have converged at the Borough of Manhattan Community College to deliver the most memorable men’s soccer season in the school’s history.

As of this date, they are ranked third in Region XV and seventh in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association poll. The Panthers’ head coach, Kenichi Yatsuhashi, has led his squad to a record of 10-2-1. Further proof of their dominance is the fact that BMCC has outscored their opponents by a whopping 67-14 margin. But Yatsuhashi is quick to point out that the real test is coming up in the days and possibly weeks ahead when they go for the national champships.

“Everything that we have done up until now doesn’t matter unless we step up in the post-season,” Yatsuhashi admitted. “We must perform to our potential if we are going to accomplish our goal.”

And make no mistake about it, that goal, one that Yatsuhashi established when he took over the program, is clearly a national championship this season. “We definitely believe that we can win it all,” said sophomore midfielder J.P. Ahoua. “With all of the talent that this team has, anything otherwise would be a disappointment.”

In addition to winning games, what has so many people buzzing about the Panthers is that the squad has maintained a business-like attitude throughout the entire campaign. “Honestly, the work ethic that we have displayed has been the biggest surprise for me this season,” said Yatsuhashi. “Everyone on our roster, all 24 players, come to practice motivated to work. Each one of them has improved over the course of the season and some guys, who I never expected that I would be relying on when practice started, have become key contributors.”

Perhaps sophomore Julio Hidalgo, who was the last player to make the team as a freshman in 2004, is the best example of one such surprising contributor. The native of Ecuador has made a successful transition from forward to left halfback this season. According to Yatsuhashi, Hidalgo has been a key leader on defense, a unit that is allowing only slightly over a goal per game. Another example is second-string goalkeeper Terrance Ahoua, who has been so impressive and such a hard worker, that on occasion, has forced his way into a starting role in between the pipes, ahead of starter Dilmar Martinez.

According to J.P. Ahoua, there is another explanation for the positive energy surrounding the Panthers. “The guys are all easy going and friendly,” he said. “We have fun with each other on and off the field but we know when it’s time to be serious. Our coach is a perfectionist and he sets high standards. Anything else is just a waste of time to him.”

First-year striker Jerry Boateng- Bekoe has been impressed with Yatsuhashi’s coaching as well. “Coach is able to act fast in different situations,” he said. “Whenever we’re not clicking, he knows when to make substitutions and blend the right players so that we can fix things immediately.”

Individually, the Panthers possess some of the best talent around. Boateng- Bekoe, native of Ghana, leads the team with 13 goals and is second in the region. Tunisia product Nizar Chahbani has added 12 goals and a team-leading eight assists. But once again, Yatsuhashi is adamant that the success of his team centers around the team concept.

“Everyone has individual goals that they would like to accomplish,” Yatsuhashi explained. “But if we don’t win and play together, they can’t achieve those goals. We have a good mix of backgrounds, he added. The exciting thing is that we are gelling despite all of our differences.”

Differences that may very well lead to something special down on Chambers Street.

Borough of Manhattan Community College, founded in 1963, is the largest community college in the City University of New York and the only community college in Manhattan. The U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of International Education rank BMCC as being #1 in awarding degrees to African-Americans in the Northeast; #2 for awarding associate degrees in business; and # 3 for awarding associate degrees in communications technology. The College enrolls over 19,000 students who are representative of the ethnic and cultural diversity of New York City. Respected nationally for its rigorous academic standards and the caliber of its graduates, BMCC takes pride in such innovative academic programs as multimedia programming and design, funded by grants from Microsoft and the National Science Foundation.

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