The 2019 season for the Westcliff men’s soccer team was a resounding success. The first-year Warriors, playing an independent schedule, finished 10-5-2 and helped set the tone for the entire Westcliff athletic program, which was in its infancy prior to 2019.
A year later, much has changed.
The Warriors now call the California Pacific Conference home, and although they will not be allowed to play for the Cal Pac title during their probationary period in 2020, the Warriors will compete for Cal Pac dominance in 2021.
Beside the Cal Pac, the Warriors will also call the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) home beginning in 2020 and will be eligible to compete for national championships a year later.
The Warriors have experienced roster turnover as well. Josh Glover, the captain goalkeeper and team leader on the pitch, was voted Warrior of the Year for his season in 2019. But Glover has now moved on to the Warriors’ coaching staff.
“There’s only one Josh Glover,” Westcliff head coach Joey O’Keefe said. “His on-field departure will definitely be felt, but at the same time, it leaves an opportunity for new players to step into that role.”
The leading contender to fill Glover’s shoes will be Kevin Belmonte, the lone returning captain from a year ago.
Belmonte, a defensive specialist who O’Keefe called the heart of Westcliff’s backline, helped Westcliff maintain a 1.4 goals-against average in 2019 by anchoring the defense, often from sweeper. He started 15-of-16 contests, one shy of team leaders Glovers and Nick Frost, and even managed to get off five shots and collect an assist from the backend.
Belmonte is also one of Westcliff’s most prominent student-athletes behind the scenes. Last year, he took part in the Westcliff Student Athlete Advisory Committee’s effort to help the program gain admittance into the NAIA.
“Kevin is a leader in all aspects of our team,” O’Keefe said. “There is no one more committed to the program than Kevin when it comes to on-the-field practices and off-the-field functions.”
Belgian center-midfielder Silva Mosue, Westcliff’s fastest athlete, will also be looked upon to fill a leadership role as well in 2020. While Belmonte’s leadership style is more vocal, Mosue tends to lead in a different fashion.
“(He) leads by example,” O’Keefe said. “His effort is unquestionable as there is no one on the field who covers more blades of grass than Silva.”
Mosue battled through muscle injuries during his sophomore campaign a year ago, but O’Keefe says he has worked hard to come into his junior season healthy.
“I can’t wait to see how he dominates the midfield in our games this season,” O’Keefe said.
Westcliff carries a large and talented roster, and playing time is not easily forged. But there are a number of newcomers to the roster this season who could make a lot of noise.
Karam Idris, who hails from London, England, joins the Warriors out of William Jessup University, where he played his last three seasons. Idris is a talented attacking forward who will help spearhead Westcliff’s effort up front.
“He had three bang-out college seasons already and is looking to make an immediate impact in our attacking lineup,” O’Keefe said. “He’s a left-footed, attack-minded threat who has wonderful creativity and maturity to his game.”
While Idris is a veteran coming in, Ethan Burkel joins Westcliff out of Oak Hills high school in Hesperia. Burkel won almost every athletic award possible at Oak Hills as a senior and was being tracked by several Division I and II programs before signing with Westcliff.
“Ethan has the raw tools and athleticism to see minutes on our varsity roster this season as a freshman, which is difficult in a program like ours,” O’Keefe said. “He will likely be used in several positions and our coaching staff is excited to see him grow in all aspects of his life on and off the pitch during the next four years.”
A number of current Warriors will be fired-up to see Fullerton College transfer Marco Polo lacing them up for Westcliff this fall.
Polo started two years for the Hornets, helping Fullerton College to back-to-back playoff berths, and will join former teammates Angel Ponce, Juan Medina, Cesar Ortega, Danny Abrego and Jacob Aldana this fall at Westcliff.
“(Fullerton) is a local JC that we have found a successful partnership with since our inception,” O’Keefe said. “What we love about Marco is not just his leadership and championship mindset, but also his ability to win in the classroom.”
O’Keefe says it will be hard to keep Polo off the field this year. At Fullerton, he was a captain, an All-Conference honoree, and a two-time OCC league winner.
After coaching both the men’s and women’s programs last season, O’Keefe was named Westcliff’s Coach of Year at the (virtual) year-end athletics banquet.
But now that Westcliff has hired Tom Lancaster to take over the women’s program, O’Keefe will focus solely on the men’s game moving forward.
“The addition of Coach Tom Lancaster has been integral for the growth of both soccer programs,” O’Keefe said. “Tom brings an entirely new and fresh mindset to our women’s program and has recruited and retained some incredible coaches and talent.”
O’Keefe and Lancaster’s relationship dates back almost 10 years, and O’Keefe says they will continue to work closely for the betterment of both programs.
“I truly believe that Coach Tom, and his coaching staff, will take the women’s program to new heights and successes both on the field and in the classroom,” O’Keefe said. “Consequently, I have had more time to focus on the men’s program with both our current and future players. It is our core belief that having a head coach for each program will improve the student-athlete experience and productivity.”
Westcliff Men’s Soccer will hold several camps this fall and winter as it looks to jumpstart 2021 recruiting. If you are interested in attending, please be on the lookout for camp dates and sign-up information on social media, or you can e-mail Coach O’Keefe directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow Westcliff Men’s Soccer on Instagram at westcliff_msoc, on Twitter at @westcliffu_mscr and on Facebook by searching Westcliff University Men’s Soccer.
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail email@example.com.