DCTC Offers Second Shot At Soccer

Nicole Harris, Star Tribune

When Kerby Camacho moved to Apple Valley from Mexico as a middle school student, he was shocked that people weren’t playing soccer everywhere, all the time. He realized that if he wanted to play, he had to join an organized team. So he did.

“I have been playing all my life,” said Camacho, now 18, who played for the Dakota Rev soccer club and Apple Valley High School, from which he graduated in June.

He wanted to play soccer after high school but didn’t get a scholarship. He toyed with the idea of taking a year off to work.

A new men’s team at Dakota County Technical College means he won’t have to take a year off.

Cam Stoltz, athletic department coordinator at DCTC, persuaded Camacho to continue his soccer career this fall at the school. DCTC will be the only two-year or four-year public men’s varsity or sponsored soccer program in the state.

“It’s easier for me to go here,” Camacho said. “I don’t have to waste so much gas.”

There are few college options with varsity men’s soccer programs in Minnesota. Twelve private colleges in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference offer men’s soccer at the Division III level. But many soccer players whose academic and athletic goals do not mesh with the D-III colleges either leave Minnesota or give up soccer.

DCTC, part of the National Junior College Athletic Association, started a sports program three years ago. It competes in baseball, wrestling, women’s soccer and now men’s soccer.

“It’s kind of a maverick thing for us,” said Stoltz, head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams. “I’m just a soccer coach. Not a girls’ coach. I’m not a boys’ coach. I just love soccer.”

With the popularity of soccer in Minnesota, and with almost 9,000 registered youth soccer players in Dakota County, there are many players who could benefit from a two-year education at DCTC for academic, geographic and financial reasons.

Wayne Harrison, the assistant soccer coach for the DCTC teams, has been the director of the Eden Prairie Soccer Club for four years. Harrison, who lives in Savage, played and coached professional soccer in England before he hooked up with the soccer club in Eden Prairie, where he’s responsible for 65 teams from ages 8 to 19 and 150 coaches.

The club is his first priority and “college is kind of icing on the cake,” he said. “It keeps me tight as a coach,” he said. “It fires my enthusiasm for soccer.”

In the women’s team’s inaugural season last year, it finished ranked 15 out of 105 teams in NJCAA Division I. “I was pleasantly surprised,” Harrison said. “We worked them hard. It was a good challenge.”

Stoltz and Harrison want DCTC to become a launching pad for players who want to make the leap to four-year colleges. Camacho, who will study exercise science this fall, also sees DCTC as a way to keep playing soccer beyond these two years. He hopes to move on to a four-year school.

“I’m trying to start somewhere,” he said. “It’s better than not going to college.”