“It’s a special day. It’s always special when both your women and your men’s team win a national championship,” said Ron Clark, vice president for business services, human resources, safety and security during the opening remarks at a ring presentation in Sabine Hall.
The men and women’s soccer team received their national championship rings on March 21 commemorating the 2018 season. Richland men’s and women’s soccer teams won their respective National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III National Championships.
Richland is the only NJCAA Division III college to achieve that feat. Richland is also the only school to have dual-championship seasons on three separate occasions, in 2004 and 2006.
In her speech, Richland President, Dr. Kay Eggleston, expressed pride in the soccer program.
“At Richland College, we are deeply committed to helping all our student athletes achieve both their academic and athletic potential as a personification of our Richland College vision to be the best place we can be to learn, teach and build a sustainable local and world community,” Eggleston said.
Lucio Martinez was a part of the men’s national championship-winning squads in 2016 and 2018. In his second year, he pulled out of the squad early in the season after suffering a knee injury. He came back in 2018 as the team captain, leading the team to another title.
“I feel good. I’m pretty accomplished. It’s unique. I’m not the first player to ever do this, but it’s actually an honor to be able to come back and get another ring. My first year was a good year. Second year, unfortunately I got injured, but my third year, after all the hard work in the season, it finally paid off,” Martinez said.
Last season, women’s head coach Scott Toups celebrated his second national championship in 11 years at Richland. Since taking over the helm in 2008, his team has qualified for six national tournaments.
“This is a big one for me. This is the second championship ring I’ve won since I’ve been here at Richland,” Toups said. “You know; you start questioning yourself. Maybe you think the first one was a fluke. I won that one in my second year here and you start thinking, you know, am I ever going to win another one, so this was a really special one to validate all of our teaching and instruction.”
Miranda Ibarra was excited during the ceremony. She was MVP and named to the NJCAA all-tournament team.
“It [the ring] served as a reminder of all the things we’ve been through throughout the season and actually winning. It was kind of like reliving that moment again,” Ibarra said.
Men’s soccer coach Sean Worley celebrated his seventh ring in 21 years. His team has reached the last three consecutive national finals and won in 2016 and 2018.
“The kids have been through a lot [of] ups and downs, good and bad, but today’s a very happy day for everyone, very positive, and to see all their hard work finally pay off. And to get a ring to symbolize our national championship and see the faces regarding their hard work represented in the ring is wonderful,” said Worley. “It makes me happy to see them happy.”
Martinez echoed the same sentiments. He said the camaraderie within last year’s squad was the best he had experienced during his years at Richland.
“We were more like a family. We just felt like brothers outside the field and that’s what led us to a national championship.”