By Nicole Ramsey
It’s not easy to walk in the footsteps of a giant. In this case, the giant is the NCAA Division III UC Santa Cruz men’s soccer team, and the one in the shadow of the giant is the UCSC men’s soccer club. Not only do club players have to compete against other teams, but they also find themselves having to compete for the attention and support of the university and students.
“People don’t pay much attention to us,” sophomore goalkeeper Jason Tom said. “People feel that because we are not at the varsity level, that we are below them and that we should not be taken seriously.”
The men’s soccer club is an opportunity to play soccer at the college level without as much of a time commitment as an NCAA team, and for some it is a way to be able to compete against many other dedicated players like themselves.
“That’s the thing about soccer here in Santa Cruz,” sophomore and captain Kolya Glick said. “It’s not like this is a scrub team with people who have never played before. Many of the players we choose have a lot of experience.”
Although nearly 60 people showed up to the club’s first tryout, cuts were made to leave the squad at about 20 players.
“There is enough demand for soccer here that we can have an NCAA team and a really good competitive soccer club as well,” Glick said.
The club is part of the San Jose League due to the fact that it is without its own field. Participating in the league assures the club not just field space, but a number of teams to compete against as well.
“We had a hard time picking out colleges to play,” Tom said. “So we use the league to be able to play in more games.”
Although in the past the Slugs have not had the most reliable team due to the pressures of school and concerns outside the club, dedication has now come to play an important part in their decisions when choosing players.
“It’s hard to get a steady flow of people to come out to practice,” Tom said. “A lot of players are busy with school and jobs, but a lot of people do stick with it.”
Even though the club is more laid-back than the NCAA team, they still go hard at practice and strive to find a balance between sports and school, making time to study as well as win games.
Last Sunday the men’s club soccer team competed against rivals UC Berkeley in an intense match-up that resulted in a tie. The Slugs are looking to schedule a rematch against the Bears to determine a winner.
“If you don’t count the ties, we are undefeated,” junior Patrick Cleeves said. “We are trying to keep that going as long as possible and trying to play well all year long.”
Due to the fact that the team has more rookies this year who have played soccer prior to attending UCSC, the transition from high school to club soccer has not been as drastic of a change.
“This year has been good and we are just going to keep getting better because of all the rookie talent we have,” Glick said. “Although we have certain people coming and going, we still have our core that has stayed with us the whole time.”
The men’s club soccer team is striving to prove that it is a force to be a reckoned with in the soccer scene and also wants to create a better image for UCSC sports clubs.
“We want to show people that we are not a joke,” Tom said. “We want people to take us seriously and we want to show other schools, along with ours, that we are a strong team.”