Eseah Ingram and Andre Matzuda helped the Western Nebraska Community College men’s soccer team to a record-setting 12-win season last fall. Now, the two teammates will keep playing with each other at the next level after both inked letter of intents to play at NCAA Division II Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Ingram, who played for Scottsbluff High School, and Matzuda, who came to WNCC from Lima, Peru, became friends the past two years. Both said that going to play soccer with each other is special.
“The biggest reason why I choose to go here is it is a big change in scenery. I thought going to high school here and then college here, I thought it was time for some change,” Ingram said. “I also get to go with one of my good friends and teammates here. I thought it would be difference and I wanted to explore, get out of a small town and into a bigger area on the east coach. Also, they gave me good money.”
[I talked with Eseah on Wednesday morning and wanted to add in that interview. When you hear him talk about his decision and what’s out in front of him you can get a pretty clear picture of the success he’ll have in life; he’s very focused and has things in perspective with a plan of attack]
Ingram said he is looking forward to playing in North Carolina and try something new, away from his family.
”I love this game a lot,” Ingram said. “I have been blessed with a lot of opportunities here at the high school, here at the college, and with this opportunity right in front of me. I hope to make myself proud, make my family proud, and do the best that I can. I am going to try to try to play this sport as long as I can. God willing, let me be healthy and everything. I am pretty excited.”
And, going with Matzuda is a big plus while being several thousand miles from family.
“He always says I can’t live without him,” Ingram said. “The other schools I was looking at kind of fell through and coach [Todd Rasnic] put us onto Shaw. I went on a visit and they talked to me about Andre and I begged them to take Andre, too. They said we will take you both and I was like sweet. I had to do a little convincing with Andre.”
While he is excited to be going to Shaw, there is that sadness of leaving his family for the first time.
“I will miss a lot of my teammates, who are my brothers,” Ingram said. “I have a lot of close friends here. I am a momma’s boy. I will miss my mom, and my aunt, and my little sister, and my dad. They had my back my entire life so they are excited for me. It will be tough and a change, but as long as do what I want to do and it makes me happy, they have my back. I am just excited to go to North Carolina. It is a big soccer state. It will be pretty competitive and I love to compete.”
For Matzuda, who earned NJCAA Academic All-American honors last spring, said he is going to a city that is similar to his hometown in Peru.
“I decided to go there because it is a nice city and I had a chance to go with Eseah,” Matzuda said. “He is a really good friend and we had the opportunity to go together. It is a great option. It is really exciting that I get to go on to play because when I decided to come to the United States, I wanted to play soccer. Now I have the opportunity to keep playing, I think it is a great opportunity for me to keep studying and get my degree.”
Matzuda and Ingram said that coming to WNCC was the right choice.
“It was a big change coming from by city to here, but all the people I met here like my friends, dorm family, it will be hard to leave,” he said. “Coming here has been an amazing experience. I have met so many people that had a great affected my life. All my teammates are wonderful and I loved playing here. It was a great experience to grow as a player and a person.”
Ingram said that for many athletes, if they get a good Division I scholarships, they should take it. But for some, neither is nothing wrong in going the junior college route. Ingram said that out of high school, he never dreamed of heading to the east coast to go to school. During high school, his schooling was maybe Colorado or Texas and that was hit. Junior college opened up more avenues for scholarships and playing from all over the United States.
“If you have DI offers take it, but I think junior college is underestimated. There are a lot of DI high-level players that play in junior college,” Ingram said. “I think we get caught up in the category of the level of play that we underestimate the players at the JUCO level. There are some phenomenal players here in junior college. I think it is a great place to humble yourself and I know it humbled me a lot, but not too much though. I think it helps to build your character and what you are made of. Our league is physical and people are in your face. You are either going to hit them back or you are going to stay on the ground or on the bench. I think it is good place to come and get two years out of your way and see who you are really as a player and a person.”
For Ingram, he improved a lot, especially since he had to switch positions from high school.
“I have improved a lot. I came here as a forward and the first day of practice I saw the other forwards the coach recruited and I knew I was going to play bench,” he said. “Coach saw potential in me as a defender. I had a great leader my freshman year in Billy Hoffman, who is at UNO, and he taught me a lot. I took everyone’s style and what everyone told me and put that into my play. I think here I have grown as a person, grown as a leader, and improved a lot. I feel I have to improve a lot more and I hope to do that before I go to Shaw and while I am at Shaw.”
Both players had successful seasons at WNCC. Matzuda was a key player in the midfield, while Ingram was a top defender. In fact, Ingram said when he first walked on the field at WNCC his freshman year as a freshman, he saw the talent and said that he was probably going to sit the bench. So, he transitioned to defense and became an all-region defensive player.
“It was a pretty good season for the team,” Matzuda said. “It wasn’t as good for as it was for the team, but I played good and now I have the opportunity to continue playing soccer the next years.”
Ingram said the season they had this year was unreal.
“Coming from my freshman year where we lost a lot to my sophomore year where we won a lot, I thought it was fun,” he said. “I thought the season was disappointing because I thought we were the best team in the region and I think we could have competed with anybody at nationals. We have a lot of talent here and we were able to create a bond on and off the field. We played hard for each other.”