Both the men’s and women’s club soccer teams plowed through three years of probation and have finally scored as official UCSB-sponsored club teams.
Both teams have existed through fund raising and member dues since their inaugural 2000 seasons. Since their establishments, both the men and women have operated through UCSB’s Office of Student Life and received no university funding.
“We spent the first three years on probation because [the Office of Student Life] wanted to make sure the sport will be viable,” women’s Head Coach Todd Heil said.
Soccer is the only sport available at all three levels offered at UCSB. Men and women can participate in levels ranging from recruited Division I intercollegiate athletics and walk-on club teams to recreational intramural leagues.
The difference between Division I athletes and club players, according to Heil, is the level of commitment. Intercollegiate athletes come to UCSB as recruited student-athletes, most of who are on scholarships.
“They are a higher echelon of athletes,” Heil said. “The level of commitment for club players is a lot less.”
Many of the athletes who play on either the men’s or women’s soccer teams are students who may have been recruited for Big West Conference action, but did not make the final cut. However, senior defender Kale Major and sophomore midfielder Corey Wood, both members of the UCSB men’s intercollegiate soccer team, started on what is now the men’s club soccer team.
Although club teams in general are not as highly regarded as their Division I counterparts, the men’s and women’s club soccer teams are not lacking in accomplishments. Both teams have made it to nationals, which features the top 16 teams, in each of their three years in existence.
“We’re competitive and we’ve done well,” junior midfielder Shiv Kumar, co-captain of the men’s team, said. “This year we expect to go to nationals and to win league. Our team is head and shoulders above any other team in the last three years”
The women share similar goals.
“We are returning a lot of players and we have a great freshman class,” Heil said. “Our expectations are high.”
Heil pointed out senior central midfielder Sarah Battin, junior forward Marina Karzag and sophomore transfer student and central midfielder Julie Helmus as team standouts. The strength of the team, Heil said, is in its technical ability.
The men’s team, however, takes its strength from its defense. While senior co-captain and goalie Trent Plyler is out for the season with a torn ACL, co-captain sophomore midfielder Josh Shaidle, Kumar and defenders Chris Hughes and Carl Bowers will lead the Gauchos. The addition of new coaches Jeff “J.J.” Johnson and J.T. May, according to Kumar, has also been a positive force for the team.
Both teams are currently undefeated to open their respective seasons. The women beat Long Beach State, 6-0, while the men have three games under their belts. The Gauchos beat UC Irvine, 4-0, UC Berkeley, 2-0, and Pacific, 5-0.
The UCSB men’s club soccer team will host the University of Arizona at Harder Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. and USC at Gersh Park on Sunday at 12 p.m. The women will host Cal State San Marcos at Storke Field on Sunday at 1 p.m.