For a large number of high school athletes, the idea of playing beyond graduation is simply a dream, with many never having that opportunity. For many local boy’s soccer players, that dream becomes a reality on the Tompkins Cortland Community College Men’s Soccer team.For years, the local area has been a hotbed for competitive and successful high school soccer for both boys and girls. With two Tompkins County high schools ranked among the elite in the New York State Sportswriters Poll on the boy’s side and a state championship to the Lansing Bobcats in 2017, boy’s soccer has become a staple of life in the area. While the high school game is excelling, the question arises: What happens to these talented athletes upon graduation?As of the start of the 2018 Men’s Soccer season, The Tompkins Cortland Community College Panthers bolstered a roster with many names that would ring familiar with anyone following the local sports scene. In all, seven of the Men’s Soccer players that suit up for the Panthers are graduates of local Tompkins County schools, including Dryden, Lansing, and Ithaca.While the thought of a local college setting may be appetizing to some, Dryden Boy’s Soccer Coach Laszlo Engel believes that his players have some extra pull to the school and the soccer program because of a familiarity with the facilities. “I think the facility is one of the top facilities in the area,” Engel said, “We usually play at least a game up there a year so they get a picture of what it looks like and feels like to be up there ahead of time.”This formula for developing a fondness for the school and the program certainly has paid off. The Panther 2018 roster slots four former Lions; Sean McDaniel, Liam Moneypenny Hall, Jake Lewis, and Marcus Gonzalez. Engel believes that beyond the familiar feel to Tompkins Cortland, he believes that some go to the junior college to work on figuring out what academic and athletic endeavors they wish to pursue before they commit to four-year institutions.Benji Parkes, the coach of the Lansing Bobcats, also feels that the location and the facilities bring about an interest in Tompkins Cortland. “I think it’s close to home for a lot of kids and they have great facilities on campus so it makes it an easy choice to try out the next phase of their life after high school,” said Parkes, “Tompkins Cortland has always been a great program for players to get introduced to the college game as well as make the jump academically before graduating with an associate’s degree or attending a four year school.”Parkes has witnessed a former member of his 2017 Class C state championship squad, John Rodgers, continue his playing career for the Panthers. “John Rogers had a fantastic soccer career at Lansing so it’s nice to be able to watch him have success at the next level,” said Parkes. With mindsets similar to Engel’s and Parkes’ in the area, the Panthers understand the importance of bringing in talent that is easily accessible. “We strive, every year, to bring in the best local talent to mix in with players we recruit from outside the area as well as internationally,” said Tompkins Cortland Head Coach Andy Davis.The opportunity to provide outside recruits a chance to play with the best of the local area allows the local plays to use their bonds to generate a team unity with non-natives. Beyond being the local balance to the team, the local talent gives a significant boost to the play of the Panthers. “It is always a good situation having some very good local players that we can recruit to play for us and be big contributors on our team,” Davis said.Certainly, the storied success of the Panthers program and the continued valuing of an abundance of local players has paid off for Tompkins Cortland.While Davis is tasked with using the talent he brings to Tompkins Cortland to produce wins on the field, he understands the reach that local players have to connect the community with the college. “I think having good local talent also keeps the local community engaged on what is going on up here at Tompkins Cortland Community College athletically,” said Davis.Engel seems to believe that that connection between the Tompkins Cortland and the local programs boosts the competitiveness and the relationships of the local boy’s players. “The players come back, on their days off, to our games and mingle in with our players, said Engel, “They see them in their Tompkins Cortland jackets and it is motivating for them.”While soccer is a cornerstone of Tompkins County, the local game continues to grow thanks to the next level being so close by.
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