On a game winning goal by Midwestern State junior Flavio Guzman in a 3-2 victory against then-sixth ranked St. Edwards, senior Albert Rodriguez got one of the assists.

The match on Oct. 8 was just another example of Rodriguez’s value to the Mustangs. Rodriguez leads No. 2 Midwestern State, 10-0-1 in scoring with 11 goals and five assists for 27 points. Guzman is next with 12 points.

“He has been a breath of fresh air for us on and off the field,” said Midwestern coach Doug Elder. “He is a very silent leader. He is a kid that leads by example. He is never late. He never misses meetings. He is solid.

“He is very humble. It took him last year to get into it. He had been out of college for so long.”

Rodriguez is an inspiration, Elder added, particularly for the freshmen and sophomores.

After playing college soccer for one year at Richland College in 2006, Rodriguez left the world of college athletics and entered the workforce. It wasn’t until 2014 that he decided to return to being a student-athlete.

It took time for Rodriguez to adjust to going to school and practicing soccer with his teammates while still raising his daughter.

“I had to get back into shape and use to the college game again,” Rodriguez said. “I played last year and it was a little difficult for me to get back into it. I wasn’t playing as much as I am now.”

Rodriguez started 17 games last year and finished with five goals and two assists for 12 points as Midwestern State finished 13-4-2. The Mustangs season ended with a 1-0 loss to Colorado Mesa in the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament.

What Rodriguez accomplished last year after being away from college soccer for eight years endeared him to his teammates.

“Last year some of the seniors on the team started calling me grandpa because I was older than them and I was just a junior,” Rodriguez said. “It stuck with me. It is fun playing with young, talented players.”

“Grandpa” Rodriguez realized he had to get into even better shape to keep pace with soccer players in their late teens and early 20s.

Rodriguez worked harder in the summer, arrived on campus earlier for the start of the season. The hard work is paying off.

“It took him a year to get used to everything,” Elder said. “Now, he is doing fine. He is a normal student. He goes to class. He is just a little bit older than everybody else. He is a little bit wiser.

“He is an inspiration as a mentor. He is older. The kids really look up to him, especially the younger ones. He doesn’t brag. It helps the younger kids to look up to him and see what he has accomplished and not giving up and sticking in there.”

Rodriguez said what he is doing now is not too different from working every day.

“You still have to put in the work,” said Rodriguez , who is majoring in criminal justice with a minor in business. “You have to be responsible and study. I try to do my best and do everything on time and be a good student and a good athlete.”

Rodriguez is part of a team that is having a special season. The Mustangs’ 3-2 victory over St. Edwards 10 days ago was significant. St. Edwards entered the game only allowing one goal in its first nine matches and it was on a penalty kick.

“It was a great game,” Elder said. “They came to our place. We have a good winning percentage at home. Nobody likes to play here. St. Edwards has a very good team. They are well-coached and organized.”

Midwestern State backed that victory with two straight shutout victories. The Mustangs return to action Thursday at Texas A&M International.

“We have been in a couple of close games that could have gone either way,
 Elder said. “We haven’t had a record like this since 2010 and 2010 was a Final Four run for us. We went into the playoffs 17-0-1.

“There is a lot of soccer to play. We are not guaranteed a spot in the tournament by any means, but it is always better to get off to a good start and control your destiny. I don’t know how we will finish at the finish line. We are at least good sprinters now. We may not be good marathon runners at the end of the year.”

Rodriguez sounded like a coach when he assessed the rest of the season.

“We definitely have to take it game by game now,” he said. “Every game is important.”

Conference cross country meet time

Saturday is when most conferences have their conference cross country meet and then take off a week in preparation for NCAA Division II regional meet.

One conference meet that will have the flavor of the national championship meet, which will be held Nov. 21 in Joplin, Missouri, is the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic women’s cross country meet Saturday at Kensington Metro Park in Milford, Mi.

The GLIAC features No. 1 Hillsdale, No. 3 Grand Valley State, No. 9 Northern Michigan and No. 23 Ashland.

One runner to watch is Hillsdale senior Emily Oren, who was USTFCCCA national runner of the week two weeks ago. Two weeks ago she finished fifth overall in the Greater Louisville Open, a meet that feature many Division I runners.

The GLIAC also has young talent. Last week, Grand Valley State freshman Gina Patterson was GLIAC women’s cross country athlete of the week. Patterson finished second in the Lewis Conference Crossover on Oct. 10. 

Games to watch results

No. 2 West Georgia at No. 15 Delta State: West Georgia went on the road and scored the first 28 points and came away with a 28-7 victory over Delta State. In this win it was West Georgia defense that took the starring role, holding Delta State to 227 total yards. It was the first time since Oct. 3, 2013 that Delta State was held to under 300 yards. West Georgia improved to 7-0 and Delta State dropped to 5-2.

No. 10 Humboldt at No. 11Midwestern State: Midwestern State junior quarterback Quade Coward threw for a career-high 292 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Mavericks to a 35-10 win. It is only the second time in school history Midwestern has started the season 7-0. Humboldt dropped to 6-1.

No. 12 Michigan Tech at No. 18 Grand Valley State: Grand Valley State junior linebacker David Talley 18 tackles, the fifth best total in Grand Valley history, leading the Lakers to a 38-21 victory over Michigan Tech. Offensively, Grand Valley rushed for 139 yards against a Michigan Tech team that entered the game allowing 78.6 rushing yards per game. Grand Valley improved to 6-1 and Michigan Tech dropped to 5-1.

Wingate at No. 16 Lenoir-Rhyne: Wingate bounced back from its first loss of the season by leading from start to finish in its 24-14 victory at Lenoir-Rhyne. The win by the Bulldogs snapped Lenoir-Rhyne’s 22-game winning streak in regular season South Atlantic Conference games. Sophomore running back Lawrence Pittman led Wingate with a career-high 205 yards rushing in 36 carries.

“On offense, we were able to control the line of scrimmage,” Wingate head football coach Joe Reich said on the school’s website. “We felt like our offense could run the ball (against Lenoir-Rhyne) and hit the intermediate and deep throws. The ability to control the line of scrimmage was huge. This allowed us to control the clock and rest our defense. Everything worked together for us today.”

Wingate improved to 6-1 and Lenoir-Rhyne dropped to 4-2.