When SCC revived its long-dormant soccer program in 2018, the college had high expectations for where it would go.
Three short years later, the men’s program was crowned 2021 NJCAA national champs.
“When we first started, I had confidence that I could build a team that would land at the national championship,” Head Coach Zac Newton said. “I didn’t expect that it would happen so soon.”
The Australian native arrived in West Burlington in January 2018 after serving as assistant soccer coach at Peninsula College in Washington state. From the day he arrived at SCC, he dedicated himself to building a winning program.
At the time, he and Athletic Director Tyler Gaston weren’t sure where the program would go.
“We won’t be a powerhouse right out of the gate,” Gaston told him. “You have to build a network and make yourself known to coaches and players, set up all the day-to-day operations, and create a culture of excellence.”
Newton saw the creation of men’s and women’s squads simultaneously as a worthy challenge.
“It’s certainly easier to step into established programs, but this is an opportunity to build quality programs from the ground up.”
Newton leveraged his international contacts to assemble teams with players from every corner of the globe, including America, Japan, Brazil, France, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Zimbabwe.
Two years later, the pandemic forced colleges across the country to reschedule fall 2020 sports to spring 2021. For the Blackhawks, that meant the men’s team played 36 games in 38 days.
“That’s really hard on the players,” Newton explained. “They should typically get 72 hours for recovery.”
Newton said they paid extra attention to recovery. Following COVID policies to stay fit and healthy and a focus on building skills contributed to success at regionals. Then districts. Then the NJCAA DII national championship.
It all led to one last game against the second-ranked Community College of Baltimore County Essex Knights.
CCBC Essex scored first in the 26th minute. Six minutes later, Blackhawks responded with a goal of their own. By halftime, the Knights were up 2-1.
But the Blackhawks didn’t throw in the towel.
“As the game progressed, the guys knew they could win,” Newton said. And he had high hopes that they would, too. “After taking on this emotional toll and working hard all season, I just thought we’d have to win. Something good had to happen.”
Guilherme Cunha’s sudden-death goal in overtime sealed a Blackhawks 3-2 win.
Newton isn’t just proud of this year’s team. He contributes the win to every Blackhawk who has played on the men’s soccer team.
“We found a talented group of guys—even our previous guys—who led us to the championship,” he said, adding, “I’m proud of our administration and coaches. This is a team sport. We succeeded because we worked as a team.”
As the 2021 fall season begins, Newton sees great potential for both the men’s and women’s teams.
“The women’s team is a good group,” he said. “Attitude-wise, ability-wise, I think it’s the right type of group that if they work hard enough they can really have a good season.”
As for the men keeping the national title?
Most of the national champions’ starting lineup has returned, with talented new additions.
“We’ve got a good, solid team.”