Yavapai College sends two more men's soccer players to NJCAA Hall of fame

David Hirigoyen
Date Published: 
Daily Courier

It is hard to talk about the Yavapai College soccer program without also mentioning the program at Mercer County Community College (N.J.).

One difference between the two teams is the number of players inducted to the NJCAA Soccer Hall of Fame. Each school adds two more former stars this November.

Yavapai will send forward Kevin Jeffrey and defender Matt Kirkpatrick to the Hall, giving them eight players inducted. That's more than any program.

Mercer will also send two players, bringing its total to five - second only to YC.

Both schools have won seven national championships, although three of Mercer's preceded the YC program's inception.

Both have their head coaches as well as their assistant coaches in the Hall.

One of Mercer's entrants this year, Stern John, had his shining moment in the 1995 championship game, scoring two goals against Yavapai in a 2-0 win.

Jeffrey and Kirkpatrick had their moments as sophomores in 1997, beating Mercer in the title match 3-0 at Mercer.

All three enter the Hall at this year's national tournament in Trenton, N.J., the home of the Mercer Vikings.

"What a tribute that would be for them to return to the very complex where they made their mark," YC head coach Mike Pantalione said.

Kirkpatrick added, "It's kind of cool timing. We went to Mercer our first year and just got beat.

"Then to go back to Mercer our second year and do what we did is pretty sweet. It'll be nice to go back there and accept such an honor."

Kirkpatrick said even though it is an individual accolade, it's also a team achievement.

The 1997 team was the first at Yavapai to go unbeaten at 23-0-1.

The 2008 team went 26-0.

And the co-captains aren't even the first of that group to enter the Hall. Goalkeeper Kelvin Jack was inducted two years ago.

Jack and his teammates did not allow a postseason goal that year and he credited his back four defenders, including Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick said they all knew where they needed to go, and that was to Jeffrey who scored what was at the time a team record with 31 goals that season.

Coming off a runner-up finish in 1996, Jeffrey guaranteed a title and upon completing it said, "I promised, we delivered."

"Without a shadow of a doubt, the two best captains we've had associated with this program in our history," Pantalione said of Kirkpatrick and Jeffrey.

Kirkpatrick was roommates with both Jack and Jeffrey at one point, even rooming with Jeffrey for four years at Virginia Commonwealth University. He said both are great guys, but it all comes back to Pantalione and assistant coach Hugh Bell.

"Just the kind of guys they recruit and how great of guys they are," Kirkpatrick said. "Just year after year, the guys who they bring in, they've just got a machine going. It's a credit to them really."

Conversely, Pantalione said Kirkpatrick was an extension of the coaching staff on the field, calling him one of the smartest players, if not the smartest, they have ever had. And that's not just because of his English accent.

The championship they collected in 1997 came after three straight runner-up finishes - two at the hands of Mercer. Kirkpatrick helped Jack pitch the shutout and Jeffrey put away the second goal of the game in the early stages.

Kirkpatrick said he would be in Trenton in November to receive his honor and relive that moment.

Jeffrey was unavailable for comment.

"It's really nice to be thought of even when you're long finished," he said. "It's amazing to be a part of Yavapai even though it's been like over 10 years. You're still connected to the program through things like this."