ALBANY — Darton State College sealed a package deal when the Chirinos-Perez twins signed with the Cavaliers soccer programs.
The Peruvian duo — Jorge Chirinos and Lyana Perez — has had an immense impact on two of the best soccer programs in the NJCAA, and their dedication and character were on display all season for the Darton teams, which recently wrapped up a pair of successful seasons.
Chirinos was one of the best playmakers in the state this season as a sophomore and was second in Region XVII in assists with 13. As a freshman he was an integral part of the 2012 Cavs who went undefeated in the regular season, won the region and finished third at the NJCAA National Championships.
It was during that freshman year when a member of the Darton women’s team complimented his play, and he replied, “Thanks, but my sister is better.”
His twin sister, Perez, was in another hemisphere and playing soccer at the international level when Darton women’s soccer coach Ken Veilands heard his team speaking of what Jorge had mentioned.
She was playing with Peru’s national team and was already receiving offers from rival NJCAA schools when she flew into Albany for a tryout. Lyana was immediately impressed by the campus and the athletic facilities of Darton, but there was a catch to her visit — she had arrived on men’s soccer coach Bart Sasnett’s alumni weekend, and she had to try out with the men’s teams.
Not a problem, she said.
“She played exceptionally well,” Sasnett recalled. “I tell you, the impact that those two have had here. …We’re getting a lot out of that family.”
Perez, who was just a freshman this past season, became one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the NJCAA and entered the 2013 postseason with 33 goals and 11 assists in only 18 games. She scored five more goals as Darton cruised through the Region XVII tournament and became the Region XVII Player of the Year.
It didn’t end there. Last week the NJCAA awarded Perez with All-American, First Team honors.
“Lyana has adapted well to playing with her teammates,” Veilands said. “Her success on the field is a combination of hard work and simply loving the game. Lyana is one of the most passionate players I have ever coached. She just loves playing soccer.”
Surprisingly, she didn’t begin to play the game until she was 12. By the time she was 14, she was playing for Peru’s U-17 national team. Chirinos didn’t play soccer until he was 9, when his father, an engineer and former member of Peru’s military Special Forces, told him he needed to get an academic and athletic scholarship to an elite high school academy. Chirinos has been dominating on the field ever since.
“Some come to Darton just to play,” Sasnett said. “Jorge came here to win championships and go on to the next level. He’s one of the few who takes advantage of opportunities he’s given.”
His effort is ever obvious on the soccer field. He’s a relentless central midfielder gifted with tactical awareness and strong technical ability. Teammates rally around him, and his leadership and ability to communicate with them has led to the captain’s band affixed to the cuff of his jersey.
This past year marked Chirinos’ last season with the Cavaliers, and after Perez spends another season in Albany she will move on as well.
They will both be missed, and it’s unknown what’s ahead for either of them.
Recently, when complimented on how well she plays the game, Lyana said “Thanks. But my 14-year-old little brother is better …”