Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:
A trio of Santa Rosa Junior College soccer players have earned first team All-American honors after helping lead the men’s and women’s teams to Top 10 national rankings.
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America named forward Tyler Hurst, midfielder Katie Deneau and defender Jazmine Whitlock to the Junior College Division III All-American teams. They are in select company with 14 players on the men’s first team and 13 on the women’s first team.
“I was surprised. I really never expected to really get that kind of award. It was nice,” said Hurst, a sophomore from Piner high.
Landing two players on the women’s All-American squad demonstrated the Bear Cubs depth of talent.
“Getting two is pretty big for the program. We had a really good year,” said Deneau, a sophomore from Santa Rosa high.
Each of the players credited their teammates for pushing them to improve and help make both Bear Cubs’ teams among the nations’ best. The men finished No. 7 and the women No. 4 nationally.
“We worked really hard, every single person. We had a team full of players who were eligible for it,” Deneau said.
All three played critical roles in the success of both the Santa Rosa teams.
Hurst, for instance, was accustomed to midfield and making plays. Early in the season, however, he was moved to forward and finished with 20 goals on the season – averaging one per contest.
“A lot of it has to do with the guys around me. We had a really good group of midfielders this year that got me a lot of good balls,’ he said. “We got off to a little bit of a shaky start. Then we really put it together and had a pretty good year.”
Reaching the state quarterfinals, the men’s team fell to top ranked Fresno, ending the Bear Cubs’ season short the California Community College Athletic Association final four. Santa Rosa ran up an impressive 17-2-3 record in capturing the Big 8 Conference and advancing in the state playoffs.
“The expectations for the team were to go all the way to the final four. We almost got there,” Hurst said.
In addition to completing his degree at the junior college, Hurst will continue playing soccer for the minor league Sonoma County Sol, which plays in the National Premiere Soccer League. Hurst also coaches a Santa Rosa United youth girls’ team and caddies at Mayacama Golf Club.
The perseverance Deneau demonstrated in battling back from two serious knee injuries to continue playing reflected the Bear Cubs’ desire to play their best. A team captain this year, Deneau led Santa Rosa in assists as the team won the Big 8 Conference and made a run to the state final four.
“It was never an easy day at practice. My teammates always brought it. My teammates definitely made me better,” Deneau said.
Next season Deneau hopes to continue playing at a four year school, with San Francisco State and San Jose State topping her list.
While the Bear Cubs were a high scoring team, Santa Rosa also recorded 12 shutouts. Whitlock was an anchor on defense and always quick to generate counter attacks and support the offense.
“We were so good because our attack could start from anywhere. We worked so well together,” said Whitlock, a sophomore from Montgomery high.
Always a forward in past seasons, Whitlock was moved to defender because of her speed and aggressive approach.
“By putting me in the back, I wouldn’t get so caught up in always attacking. I had to drop back and cover,” she said.
Whitlock has accepted a scholarship to play next season at Minot State, a NAIA program in North Dakota, following a memorable year with the Santa Rosa women team.
Santa Rosa’s only loss on the season was to San Bernardino Valley College in the California Community College Athletic Association championship, as the Bear Cubs finished 18-1-5.
“It doesn’t define our season. We only lost one game,” Deneau said. “We were upset that the season was over, not that we lost.”