Hoping to reign in Southern California

By Gus Bode

The SIU soccer club is heading to Bakersfield to compete for the national sports club championship Nov. 20-23

There was already a soccer game being played as the SIU soccer club arrived at Jean Stehr Field Saturday.

The green, chain-link fence gate was closed with a thick chain and padlock in an attempt to keep people off the field. It didn’t work. The gate still opened about six inches, and several would-be soccer players squeezed through.


Those who did not feel like contorting their bodies through the gate decided to act as Spiderman and scale over the top, trying hard to miss the barbs waiting to puncture skin and tear clothes.

The temperature had barely reached 40 degrees as the members of the soccer club laced their cleats and began warming up in shorts and sweatshirts.

The pick-up game on the field continued, so the men had to begin their practice in a small, cone-marked area behind one of the goals. It was important to get in as much practice as possible, because the SIU soccer club is going to the Sport Club Championships in a few weeks.

The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association Collegiate Soccer Sport Club Championships will be played Nov. 20 to 23 at Bakersfield College and the Kern County Soccer Complex in Bakersfield, Calif.

The tournament is based on a point system. Each team plays the others one time, and the results are awarded a point value:six points for a win, three points for a tie and zero points for a loss.

There are six regions throughout the country with 30 teams per region. Only four teams from each region go to the championships.

After going 8-4 and placing third for the season in the Midwest Alliance behind the Illinois and Indiana, the SIU soccer club will be traveling to California to face Penn State, Arizona State and UCLA.


“It’s good recognition for the school,” said SIU soccer club president Ben Angel. “Maybe someday we’ll get a real team here.”

With SIU’s current financial woes, getting another team of any kind isn’t very likely. The difficulty lies with Title IX. The rule that says there has to be an equal amount of opportunities for women as there are for men. Because of this, SIU would have to find the money to fund not one team, but two-one for men and one for women.

“There would be no problem getting players and coaches,” Angel said. “You just need money to build a stadium and start the program. No one has really put a huge effort toward it lately, because they know you need funds.”

The school’s lack of funds isn’t the only financial problems the soccer club is facing. It has to come up with a tidy sum of its own money to make it out to California.

Angel estimates the team needs to come up with $8,000 to make the trip to nationals.

“We’ve raised $2,000, and we still have $2,000 in our budget,” Angel said, “so we’re about halfway there, but we still need a lot more money really fast.”

The club is hoping to be sponsored by local businesses to make up for the difference in money.

Money problems don’t happen to the bigger schools, such as defending national champion Brigham Young University.

The Cougars are an extramural team at BYU, meaning that the school funds them, but it doesn’t offer scholarships to the players.

BYU’s support of the Cougars seems to have paid off. They have been Collegiate Club National Champions six times since 1993.

“That budget is ridiculous,” said SIU midfielder Lee Harms. “They have a stadium and everything. I don’t think it should be fair.”

Fair or not, the soccer team isn’t thinking about the negatives. They are focusing on the tournament itself and what it will take to win.

The recent cold weather and early nightfall has limited the team’s outdoor practicing. Schools in the west and south have the advantage of playing in warmer air.

“We normally start [practice] at 5 [p.m.],” Angel said, “Now we have to do everything indoors.”

As the practice continued, children who had a somewhat easier time sliding through the gate kept running onto the field and kicking spare balls into the playing area. It was just one more disruption of practice for the SIU soccer team, but the players aren’t letting these things bother them.

“We’re looking to do well if we’re going halfway across the country,” Angel said. “We wouldn’t pay all the money if we didn’t think we had a chance.”

Reporter Christopher Morrical can be reached at [email protected]