Soccer ranking brings recognition

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Jason Gantt never imagined becoming this popular. The telephone in the women’s soccer office at Sierra College is ringing all the time these days, and the coach is more than happy to answer it. Calls are coming from universities and colleges across the country that are searching for soccer talent. Gantt is hearing from recruiters because his team is attracting interest. The Wolverines are ranked. Sierra is No. 14 in the latest Division III rankings released by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Gantt’s team is one of three in the Big 8 Conference to make it into the top 15. Cosumnes River is No. 5, and American River is No. 11. Sierra was ranked 11th until a 3-1 loss to Cerritos on Sunday. The setback was the Wolverines’ first after a 4-0 start in Gantt’s second year. Gantt arrived at Sierra after serving as the men’s assistant soccer coach at Sacramento State, his alma mater. He switched from coaching men to women for an opportunity to teach the sport. “Guys are a little more hardheaded, especially in Division I,” he said. “Women are more coachable. I knew Sierra had great teams in the past and there are great female players in this area.” His 29-player roster this season is stockpiled with talent from high schools such as Placer, Lincoln, Roseville, Del Oro, Colfax and Ponderosa. He also has a player from Sweden and one from Finland. Gantt has also found brains in recruiting local players. His 2009 team’s cumulative GPA was 3.11. Gantt is not afraid to carry so many players because he realizes how quickly he can lose them at a junior college. His 2009 team was derailed by injuries and lost in the second round of the state playoffs. “That prevented us from going on,” Gantt said. “I want the deepest, strongest team I can have. That’s one of my goals. And it’s hard to turn a player away when she really wants to play here.” Twenty-seven players saw action last Friday in Sierra’s 6-0 victory over Mendocino in Rocklin. Matches in which Gantt can unload his bench will be not as frequent once conference play begins. Sierra will host Santa Rosa in its conference opener Friday at 3:30 p.m. A test waits Oct. 1 when Cosumnes River visits Rocklin. The Wolverines play each conference opponent twice. Between now and Nov. 12, when Sierra plays at American River in its Big 8 finale, Gantt will be keeping an eye on his phone. How often it rings will let me know exactly how his team is faring.