Eiichi Yamaguchi Earns MCCC's First NJCAA All-American Bid of 2019-20 Academic Year


West Windsor, N.J. – After Eiichi Yamaguchi’s first goal of the 2019 season on Aug. 24, the entirety of the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) men’s soccer team exhaled a sigh of relief. The goal was the first sign that the sophomore, who was returning to the pitch for the first time in two years, was capable of picking up where he left off.

His hard work was recognized this season. Scoring 62 points through 18 games, Yamaguchi was named to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) All-American First Team. His selection is the most recent in Mercer history, following Kaley Wise (softball, 2018, third team) Donovon Guess (basketball, 2018-19, second team), and Dominic Boselli (baseball, 2019, first team).

Earning a spot on the team was no easy feat. In 2017, Yamaguchi’s freshman season at MCCC, he missed being selected to any All-American squad despite scoring 29 goals, six more than he managed this year. Add that Yamaguchi’s opponents focused on slowing his contributions at any cost, and his achievement becomes even more significant.

“Very early in the season we realized that teams were going to double team Eiichi,” men’s soccer Head Coach Widmarc Dalce said. “But he is a team player. He is always ready to set up his teammates for success.”

Yamaguchi responded to the added coverage exactly as expected: by passing. This season he doubled his assists to 16 from his freshman year, painstakingly priming his partners for the goals he was denied.

“My favorite moment of the season was when we beat Harcum at the end of October,” Yamaguchi recalled. The Vikings took that match, the NJCAA Region 19 Semifinal, 3-2, which marked the squad’s second narrow victory over a massive Harcum team.

“Matheus [Martins] scored the last goal, and that sent us to the Finals,” he added. Yamaguchi’s name was nowhere in the box score that game, a double-overtime thriller that saw Mercer’s turf field drenched by a mid-match rainstorm. His selflessness was evident as he celebrated Martins’ game winner harder than any goal he scored all season.

Though the Vikings fell to region rival Essex County College in the Temple University-hosted Finals, Yamaguchi doesn’t regret a minute of the season, nor his years at Mercer.

“I could have gone to ASA,” Yamaguchi said, citing the Brooklyn-based college as one of his early options. “But Mercer’s history and coaching staff won me over.” Each of Mercer’s 57 soccer seasons has ended with a winning record, the highest mark coming in 1991 when the Vikings posted a 24-0 record and won the national championship.

Originally, from Osaka, Japan, Yamaguchi was a quick fit for an internationally acclaimed Vikings team. The 2019 season featured 18 international players, from Brazil, Israel and Liberia among others. Yamaguchi’s presence was a yet another diversifying one, supplementing the variety of playstyles the Vikings could implement.

“In Japan, many of the players are very technical, smart athletes,” Yamaguchi said. “I bring some of that, but here, I felt like I could make a difference by increasing our pace of play.”

At the start of the season, Yamaguchi’s and the Vikings’ pace took the region by storm. Mercer scored seven and six goals in the first halves of the first two games – four of which were Yamaguchi’s – and allowed just three. Only one of the goals against MCCC came in the second half.

By the season’s end, Mercer had outscored opponents 113-17 and achieved a national ranking as high as fifth.  

Though it would seem he does little else than eat, breathe and sleep soccer – Dalce contends the attacker could turn pro – Yamaguchi has put a non-soccer goal on his to-do list.

“I want to make videos,” he said with a shy smile. This summer, Yamaguchi documented his travels to New York and Los Angeles, cutting together reels of scenes splashed with palm trees and skyscrapers.

“My teammate, Kotaro [Koga] and I started a YouTube channel, Global Kotaro,” Yamaguchi added. “We want to make travel videos about everyday life all over the world.”

“I’m just so appreciative of being able to start my career here at Mercer,” Yamaguchi said. “I had great teammates and great coaches. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

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Eiichi Yamaguchi shoots the ball against Carroll College


Eiichi Yamaguchi was named to the NJCAA All-American First Team.