Western Nebraska Community College’s Rodrigo Cercal finished up his sophomore season with quite a bit of honors recently when the Region IX All-Region teams were announced.
Cercal, a sophomore from Brazil, was named the Region IX soccer Most Valuable Player. Last year, Cercal was the Freshman of the Year.
On top of that, Cercal broke the career goal-scoring record for the Cougars with 29 career goals after scoring 14 this year and 15 his freshman year.
With all the region honors, Cercal was not selected as a NJCAA All-American when the teams were released Wednesday morning. Only one Region IX player made the team and that was Casper’s Ewan Gordon as a NJCAA First Team defender.
Still, Cercal is happy with his season and the honors he received.
“I am very happy and proud to be able to achieve these awards,” Cercal said. “It is very gratifying to see that it was two seasons of hard work and these awards are the rewards of that work. Being elected MVP of the region is not something easy to achieve, so I feel very proud to have my work recognized.”
Cercal said achieving the career record is special. The previous record was held by Lawan Abary of 26, set in 2016, and second was his assistant coach Silvio Xavier Henrique of 25, set in 2017.
“It means a lot to me, because it is something that will remain in the history of WNCC and will be forever in my memory,” he said. “There is a verse in the book of Ephesians that I like and believe a lot. This verse says that God can do infinitely more than anything you can ask or imagine, and He really blessed me in a huge way here, because I imagined coming here and making many goals, but it did not come out of my mind to be the athlete with more goals in the history of WNCC.”
Not only was Cercal selected Region IX MVP, which is voted on by the Region IX coaches, he was one of four Cougar men’s players that earned All-Region honors.
Cercal was the only Cougar on the First Team, garnering a First Team forward nomination along with three other Region IX players with Jesper Van Halderen and Cole Venable of Casper College, and Otero’s Pape Souleymane Diof. Venable was named the region’s Freshman of the Year.
Other Cougars that earned all-region honors included sophomore Rennan Sousa as a Second Team Midfielder and sophomore Tom Pelzer as a Second Team Defender. Freshman Samuel Acosta was named an Honorable Mention Defender.
With all honors the team got, the Cougars didn’t have the best season, finishing at 4-7-1 and falling to Laramie County Community College 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the regional playoffs.
Cercal realizes that, but he is still satisfied with the season.
”Unfortunately, from a team aspect, we did not have the season we wanted,” he said. “Individually, I was very satisfied with my season; it was a great experience to be able to play my last season for WNCC, I enjoyed every practice and game and it was a fun year.”
Cercal now will take his soccer talents onto the next level, but he isn’t sure what school he will be attending.
“My goal is to go to a school that has a good atmosphere, that has a competitive soccer program, and one where I can continue my major,” he said. “At this time I have nothing certain about where I will go in the future.”
What he does know, however, his he will take several memories with him from his playing days at WNCC. This season, he scored four goals in a game with Northwest College on Sept. 24. That match was the final home game of the season for the Cougars and he tied the school record for most goals in a match that was held by Abary in 2017 and Jose Netto back in 2011. Ironically, those two also scored four goals against Northwest.
“To be honest, I have very good memories but I also have some not so good memories, mainly of not advancing further in the playoffs and losing games that we knew we could have won,” he said. “However, it was a fun year, I have many good memories of some special wins that we had this year, and I had a good time with my teammates during games, practice sessions and travels.”