Flames soccer finds sudden end to 2018 season

Kevin Mendoza’s senior season came to a sudden end Friday, Nov. 2 when the men’s soccer team lost to Jacksonville University in the ASUN quarterfinals. 

Mendoza had an astounding year with 12 goals, and he was named to the ASUN all-conference first team.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty good year – we overcame a lot of difficulties along the way,” Mendoza said.

Despite the tragic loss, there was still much to celebrate. The soccer team is graduating seven seniors, including Tresor Mbuyu, also named to the ASUN all-conference first team.

“All the seniors gave us something different,” Head Coach Jeff Alder said. “Some of them led with their words (and) some led with their actions. Now we are trying to build new leadership, and we feel like that leadership is plural.”

Flames sophomore midfielder Mathew Zaczyk had two shots in the ASUN quarterfinal. | Jessie Rodgers

Alder stressed how much the team had to go through this season and how much it hurt to see it come apart at the end.

“We had to do a lot of traveling this year,” Alder said. “We had to play a lot of new teams this year, so there were a lot of unknowns and our guys were able to overcome a lot of those difficult challenges. But we still fell short of our goals.”

Mendoza came to Liberty from Mexico City, Mexico. He knew only basic English and that he would be playing soccer. 

Now four years later he is graduating and leaving Liberty.

“Obviously it was hard — all the culture, the language, the food and being away from my family,” Mendoza said. “But over time I learned how to deal with it and I
overcame it.”

Mendoza said there is a lot that he loved about being in America and at Liberty.

“My favorite part of being here is the friendships,” Mendoza said. “It’s going to be hard to separate myself from everyone.”

Coach Alder said for him, it was an extremely emotional final game and end of a year.

“As I went around the huddle and hugged each of the seniors,” Alder said. “It was a very emotional moment for all of us. I just told them how proud I was of them. We are very proud of our guys in terms of all the challenges we faced and their ability to overcome adversity and obstacles.”

For Mendoza, he plans to pursue professional soccer after graduation.

“Now, I’m getting ready for the MLS combine,” Mendoza said. “Hopefully I can get drafted or I find another place
to play.”

Mendoza and the other seniors leave a big hole to fill, especially on the offensive side of the field. 

“There is a lot of talent here,” Mendoza said. “There is talent that can do the same as me or even more than that.”

Looking back over his career at Liberty, Mendoza said he was

“It was a very good career for me here at Liberty,” Mendoza said. “I remember all the freshmen that came into school with me and now I just see them, senior year, and I feel like we achieved a lot of good things in our time with the program.”

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