Eastern Arizona College
August 4, 2023
By Kris McBride
THATCHER, Ariz. –– For the first time in the history of the Gila Valley, collegiate soccer will take to the field. EAC’s inaugural men’s and women’s soccer games will kick off on Aug. 19, at John Mickelson Field, in a match against the College of Southern Nevada Coyotes. Gates open at 4 p.m. with the women starting at 5 p.m. and the men kicking off at 7 p.m. Admission is free and the match will feature raffles, food trucks, merch, and EAC’s Band.
“This is a historic moment and we’d love for the public to help us celebrate,” said Paul Demuth, EAC athletic director. “We’re so excited for the Gila Valley to watch world-class soccer in their own backyard.”
Derek Nabor, a local athlete from Safford, will join teammates from all over the world on EAC’s inaugural men’s soccer team. Nabor played for the Safford Bulldogs, finishing the 2022-2023 season with 27 points, including 12 goals and three assists in his role as striker. For his efforts, he was named to the 3A Southeast Region First Team during his senior year. He was also the 3A South Offensive Player of the Year and part of the 3A First Team All-Conference during this junior year.
Another standout player for the Gila Monster men’s team is Bruno Hurtado from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Hurtado’s high school team, the Santa Cruz Cooperative School, won the state championship in 2021 and 2022 and the national championship in 2021.
Nabor and Hurtado join 31 other teammates from Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Brazil, Caicos Islands, Estonia, Ghana, Jamaica, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Four of the 29 athletes on the Gila Monster women’s team are from the Gila Valley. Melodie Alder, Ashlin Baum, and Cailin Larson are from Thatcher and Erin Richardson is from Safford. “It’s a change of pace to play with such skilled athletes from all over the world,” said Cailin Larson. “I never thought I’d get the chance to play on a team like this and am so glad EAC is offering soccer.”
Another standout athlete on the women’s team is Kylee Holt from Utah Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain, Utah. Holt was the lead goal scorer her senior year and was a captain for her team that made it into the semi-finals of the state championship. “I chose EAC because I love Arizona and wanted to be part of Coach Long’s team,” said Holt. “Coach Long has a whole bunch of ideas and can see the game really well and how it should flow.”
Larson and Holt join teammates from Nevada, Texas, Brazil, Cayman Islands, France, Holland, Jamaica, and Japan.