Nov 18, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorMitch Cooper was a par-time starter this season for Western Wyoming College.
Mitch Cooper helped the Western Wyoming men's soccer team accomplish a number of firsts during the 2012 fall season, including a trip to the national junior college tournament this week in Albany, Ga.
Cooper graduated from Lander Valley High School a couple of years ago. He was a standout soccer player for LVHS coach Dan Howlett.
The WWC Mustangs won their first Region IX tournament in school history to qualify for nationals.
At nationals, Western went 1-1 in the tournament.
"It was the best season that they have ever had at Western," Cooper said.
Cooper played fullback for the Mustangs. The sophomore was in and out of the starting lineup.
"It was a great experience," Cooper said. "I didn't want to go anywhere else."
Cooper was one of six players from Wyoming on Western's roster.
Other Wyoming players were Christian Mendoza (Rock Springs), Tyler Wilkinson (Rock Springs), Taylor Chesnovar (Rock Springs), Cody Nice (Gillette) and Derek Smith (Star Valley).
"The majority of the guys came to Utah," Cooper said. It was great to have guys with different backgrounds and different personalities and to all come together as a unit. It's just one of those experiences that you wouldn't trade for anything."
Western is coached by Jeff Atkinson.
The college coach played high school soccer at Evanston and played club ball at the University of Wyoming. "Coach Atkinson is a great coach," Cooper said. "He pushes us in practice. There is still a little bit of fun going on. The majority of practice is serious to make us win games."
Atkinson finished his eighth season at the helm for the Mustangs.
Western entered the national tournament as the No. 12 seed.
The Mustangs lost in the opening match to No. 1 ranked Darton College 3-1.
"They just got a couple of lucky goals," Cooper said. "One of them came off a set piece. It was a just good shot. They were a great team.
There was a reason why they are No. 1 team."
In the second game, Western surprised Western Texas 3-1.
"It was an experience," Cooper said.
"We came in as the bottom seed.
A lot people think that a team from Wyoming doesn't know soccer.
We proved to people that we are here to play.
It was a really big upset of the tournament. It just means a lot to us."
Cooper was pleased with his playing time in the second game.
"I played a lot in the second game," Cooper said.
"It's an experience playing under the lights and against some of the top teams."
Darton advanced in the tournament after having the best record in pool play among Western Wyoming and Western Texas.
The national title will be crowned this week in the tournament.
Region IX soccer
Before the national tournament started, the Mustangs won the Region IX tournament.
Western beat Laramie County Community College and Northwest College on its way to winning the title.
"We knew that we had a tough game," Cooper said.
"We just came out and played our hardest.
After we beat LCCC, we knew that there wasn't anything that we could do."
The two victories for Western were 2-1 decisions.
"Just to be able to win the Region IX tournament is really exciting," Cooper said.
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