The Moraine Valley Community College men’s soccer team went back to the playoffs, felt they were in every game and had a strong team from starters to the bench this season, all reminiscent of the program pre-COVID.
Looking back on this season, Head Coach Chris Koloffon, in his fourth year leading the program, knew he had a talented crew and saw they had the same level of skills as teams did when he was assistant coach for the Cyclones. They always made playoffs and were one of the top teams in the region.
“There was not one game that we didn’t feel we had an advantage. That’s the way it was when I was an assistant. That’s how it felt then and this year, even in the last game,” Koloffon said. “We were in that group of top teams.”
The Cyclones finished the season with an overall 9-6-1 record and went 4-3 in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference. They defeated the runner-up from the 2022 national tournament – Morton College – and nearly defeated the national champs, Prairie State. The squad also qualified and played two games in the NJCAA Region 4 playoffs (where they were seeded seventh out of 24 teams), something they haven’t done in a couple years. Their losses were never by more than one or two goals. Even in their final match, Koloffon believed they would win; however, anything can happen in playoffs.
“We were there. It means we have expectations for the program to continue growing and improving. I’m happy with the season, not just morally, but we accomplished some higher goals we needed to,” Koloffon noted.
Moraine Valley had a slow start to the season, losing the first three games, including a conference match, that they could have won and would have improved their seeding in playoffs. “It makes a difference for tired legs and bodies at the end,” he added. Ultimately, they found their stride and had stretches of victories.
The roster was chock full of players who impacted this team and adjusted along the way. Sophomore and team captain Pedro Guzman (Reavis) had to move from midfield to center back. He stepped up and did whatever the team needed, for which he earned All-Region 4 honors.
“We started so many freshmen, which took a few games to adjust, and Pedro was a huge leader with that. He moved positions and was so valuable,” Koloffon commented.
Freshman Yamir Gallegos (Solorio Academy) was the leading scorer and also earned All-Region 4 honors. Freshman forward Yael Diaz (Hubbard) scored big goals in key moments, including in the first playoff game win over Black Hawk College. Sophomore Kostandino Latka (Shepard) was another key midfielder who stayed injury free and helped control the game. Freshman Mark-Vitaily Hul (Ukraine) hadn’t played much center back but played well for the Cyclones in that position.
Freshmen Niko Kunz (Sandburg) and Jose Aceves (Oak Lawn) were the top defenders for the team. One of the most pleasant surprises was freshman goalkeeper Rylan Decker (Lincoln-Way West). He was originally recruited as the third keeper because the Cyclones had two returners. When the two were unable to play, Decker went from backup to starter.
“He played every minute of every game as a freshman. That’s unheard of for college soccer,” Koloffon said. “He was the perfect guy for it. I can’t give him enough credit.”
Even players on the bench came into games when needed and made a difference. “Our depth was amazing this year. We had guys we could bring off the bench to play,” Koloffon explained. “We finished in the top eight in the region, and we started nine freshmen all year.”
Helping keep the players healthy all season through conditioning was returning Assistant Coach Javier Roman. Because of stronger athletes with multi-faceted talent, the Cyclones were able to capitalize with a winning season, and they plan to continue that trend.
The coaches are recruiting top local talent, which is especially helpful as more colleges are moving into the Cyclones’ Division II. Between the incoming players and returners, Koloffon is looking forward to next season.
For updates on Cyclones Athletics, visit mvcyclones.com.
For news media inquiries, contact Maura Vizza, Moraine Valley communications specialist and sports information coordinator, at (708) 974-5742 or Vizzam@morainevalley.edu.