A year after winning the NCCAA Championship the soccer team is no longer participating in its bracket
For the past nine years North Central University has played under the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III through all of their athletics. Last fall, the North Central University Men’s Soccer Team claimed the 2018 NCCAA National Championship in Greenville, South Carolina. The men’s soccer team has been the only athletic program at North Central to remain in the National Christian College Athletic Organization (NCCAA) for the past 20 years.
NCU athletics has had a history of being in various conferences and national organizations such as the National Bible College Athletic Association (NBCCA) and the National Christian College Athletic Organization (NCCAA).
However, after the Men Soccer team’s performance last fall, the team will now compete only in the National Collegiate Athletic Association at Division III level.
Athletic Director Greg Johnson explains North Central’s drop from the NCCAA is a great first step for future athletes.
“We want to provide a competitive atmosphere in a division III level setting, but we will not lose our key element which is our christian faith,” said Director Johnson. “When you’re able to devote more time, attention, and money to being competitive towards your goals and aspirations people will notice you. Being in the NCAA Division III will attract more recruits because of it’s a well known organization versus the NCCAA where people don’t know what it is.”
The men’s soccer season started as soon as the month of August began, as always the team had to move into campus a week before classes starts because of training and prep for the season. With the 19 man roster this season, the Rams will be led by captains Riley Loukinen, Henry Puchuela, and Rodrigo De Mendoza.
Loukinen being a starter for the Rams has seen it all during his past 4 years at North Central. In his freshman year he was part of the men’s 2016 team that took home the regional title. He was also a key starter and player on last season’s team that took home the national title. Loukinen and the rest of the captains have big shoes to fill as the Rams lost 6 key seniors from last season’s team.
“We have a very young team this year, very inexperienced, the atmosphere is really different, and we’re coming in to each game not knowing what to expect. We hope to gain back our confidence as the season progresses and build a new rhythm.” Mendoza, a third year player, said.
Head Coach Brian Li returns for his third year being part of North Central’s Men’s Soccer program. Li joined the coaching staff in 2017 as an assistant coach, but was later promoted to head coach following the departure of George Carr. In 2018 he led the rams to a 14-7-2 overall record and capturing North Central University’s first ever NCCAA National Championship. Following his team’s success last season he was also named the 2018 NCCAA Men’s National Coach of the Year.
“I think the singular commitment to NCAA is representative of where NCU Athletics wants to move in the future,” said coach Li. “NCAA DIII is without a doubt more competitive than NCCAA and investments have been made in recent years to facilities, medical training, equipment and coaching that will help us recruit and retain excellent talent.” “It was a great moment being a part of our NCCAA postseason run last year,” said coach Li, “it was somewhat poetic to exit that affiliation winning the National Championship. Now, we can march forward to the next, more ambitious goal of winning a UMAC playoff game.”