Men’s soccer team reflects on a successful season full of struggles

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Men’s soccer team reflects on a successful season full of struggles

Freshman forward DJ Emojong uses some fancy footwork to advance the ball upfield. Emojong is one of 20 freshman who hope to return next year and push for a state title.

Freshman forward DJ Emojong uses some fancy footwork to advance the ball upfield. Emojong is one of 20 freshman who hope to return next year and push for a state title.

Matt Dizon

Freshman forward DJ Emojong uses some fancy footwork to advance the ball upfield. Emojong is one of 20 freshman who hope to return next year and push for a state title.

Matt Dizon

Matt Dizon

Freshman forward DJ Emojong uses some fancy footwork to advance the ball upfield. Emojong is one of 20 freshman who hope to return next year and push for a state title.

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The men’s soccer team ended their season with a hard fought, first round playoff loss to Butte College on Nov. 17.

The Hawks finished the season with a 10-8-4 record and returned to the playoffs as a #11 seed for the first time in several years.

“That was one of our big goals was we wanted to make the playoffs,” said Head Coach Ron Preble.

While the Hawks season was a little uneven at times, the overall results were impressive given the adversity the team faced mid-season.

“I think our record didn’t show how good we actually were,” said freshman defenseman Dom Maestretti. “We had some key guys that weren’t with us for the rest of the year that left in the middle.”

Coach Preble revealed in a post season interview the reasons for the departure of two of their best players. One chose to try out for a professional league, knowingly forfeiting his college eligibility, while the other simply quit.

“His comment to us was, ‘coach I’ve been playing since I was a youth player and I’ve never had a break from it and I’m just tired,” Preble said.

“So we basically told him look, if your heart’s not in it, it’s probably better that you go,” Preble said.

That information gave context to a team which had the ability to suffocate their opponents with precision execution but at times could also look out of sorts.

The team was also very young, starting the year with only five sophomores and 20 freshman, which contributed to the teams up and down performances.

“We didn’t really know what to expect, especially being a bunch of freshman,” said freshman midfielder Julio Leal Ruiz. “The four sophomores that we had told us it was going to be a hard long season so just buckle down.”

It proved to be a challenging season for the Hawks, particularly in conference play where they went 2-5-1. However, the talent the players and coach Preble touted shined through at times with wins against Fresno and San Francisco City college, both of whom ended the season in the state semi-finals.

The team was forced to continually rebuild their chemistry through the ups and downs, including after a game in which three players had been suspended for receiving red cards the previous game.

“We went through a few games where we only had two or three subs available to us to play,” Preble said.

That type of strain is something that could cause teams a team’s morale to crumble but the Hawks were able to stick together and continue to get better. Ruiz said that the team bonded quickly which allowed them to weather the stormy season and still reach the playoffs.

“Ever since the second week we all acted like we’d known each other for a really long time, so it was a good experience,” Ruiz said

With so many players returning Preble said that “the outlook for 2019 is good” and his players share that enthusiasm.

“Now that we know what it takes and now that we have experienced it, I expect to go a lot farther next year in the playoffs,” Maestretti said.