The second straight season with a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship tournament for Laramie County Community College’s women’s soccer team was a vindication for sophomore Caroline Kuhn.
In her final stretch as a Golden Eagle, Kuhn and her squad started with a new coach and some uncertainty about what the season would hold. But Kuhn said she knew the women’s soccer team was a force to be reckoned with among its toughest competition. With new head coach Lugo Arenas at the helm, the athletes stormed forward with a demand for success.
“We all had the same understanding that we were all recruited here for a reason — we all wanted to come to LCCC for a reason: To be a junior college powerhouse when it comes to soccer,” Kuhn said. “We all came here to compete and to win; we were all under that same mindset. It allowed us to buy into our coach's game plans.”
Following a postseason run in 2022, sophomore Whitney Hansen said there was still a feeling that the team was less than a regional power. That put a chip on their shoulders that Hansen said gave them a fiercely competitive drive.
“We just came together to fight and show that we deserved to be there,” she said. “We deserved to win and we didn't want to be overlooked. That was especially true for the sophomores who came back this year.”
The team, ranked No. 19, finished off the Region IX title run with a dominating 3-0 win over Otero College in early November, punching their ticket to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in Wichita, Kansas. The tournament began Nov. 12.
As a First Team All-Region and Second Team All-American selection, Kuhn led the Golden Eagles at many critical points during the season. The forward was the team leader in goals with 11, including her second career hat trick at the collegiate level against Salt Lake Community College. Kuhn was also named one of the 12 All-Tournament Team members from the national tournament. The squad finished the season 10-5-3 overall.
Arenas was named the Region IX Coach of the Year in his first season with the program after guiding them to being undefeated in Region IX play on the way to the national tournament.
Going undefeated in the region was a significant accomplishment, Hansen said, as she felt the competition had hardened from the previous season.
“It just shows that we wanted to prove to ourselves and our coaches and our teams and our fans that we were really here to win, even when I felt like the region this year was all around more competitive,” she said.
The Golden Eagles have also achieved great success off the field recently. The women’s soccer team led all athletic programs in Grade Point Average with a 3.52. LCCC’s athletes in all programs pursued new heights, achieving 3.09 overall, increasing from a 2.81 in Fall 2021. Thirty student-athletes achieved 4.0s through the first half of the Fall 2022 semester, and another 27 finished with GPAs of 3.5 to 3.99.
The quality of education and the culture at LCCC set Kuhn and her fellows up for success, she said.
“If it wasn’t for faculty members being so understanding and supportive of the athletes here, I personally would have never gotten a 4.0,” Kuhn said. “They would make slideshows congratulating me and my team. They would come to watch games. I think the teachers were more than supportive in helping me maintain good grades and helping me achieve my goals.”
Kuhn won’t finish her degree at LCCC as she is transferring to University of North Dakota, where she was recruited for the soccer program. The junior college in Cheyenne will always be the place where she launched her higher education journey, and Kuhn said she’ll carry those experiences with her for the rest of her life.
“I look back and I'm very grateful for my time here; I feel like it's no coincidence that I came here and like everything happens for a reason,” she said.
Hansen will graduate in May with an associate in health sciences before transferring to Black Hills State University. With her time at LCCC nearly in the rearview, she said she’ll leave the college with more than a degree.
“I will always remember how we were just so much closer as a whole team,” she said. “We all have amazing senses of humor and we all show up to practice every day. I looked forward to it and looked forward to seeing everybody and just having a good time, making each other better. I won't ever forget how we bonded with each other and the memories we made.”
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