Cal State Fullerton men’s soccer will begin conference play Thursday as it hits the road to face the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.
The Titans were able to take back the season after struggling with a two-game losing streak in early September, and have been able to achieve shutout wins. Freshman midfielder and defender Alex Juarez said that it’s due to the team’s newfound bond.
“In preseason, there were a lot of new faces, so everything wasn’t clicking,” Juarez said. “But now, you can tell that everyone is getting closer and just bonding together.”
The matches the Titans found themselves falling under happened to be against some of the top-performing NCAA Division I teams.
The Titans’ first defeat was against the University of Clemson Tigers, who ranked sixth in the United Soccer Coaches poll and shut out the Titans 2-0. The Tigers took the top spot in the NCAA RPI ranking in 2016 and finished with a record of 14-4-5.
Despite the Titans holding the Tigers to two points, they were not as successful against the University of Portland Pilots, as they suffered a 5-0 shutout loss. The Pilots are also among the best teams in their conference, ranking number four in the West Coast Conference.
CSUF’s final loss was also the one to give it its first losing streak in the season. Their match against the Utah Valley University Wolverines left the Titans scoreless once again, as the Wolverines shut out Fullerton 2-0.
Despite the rough patches that CSUF has faced in its nonconference schedule, Juarez said that facing these difficult teams early in the season might be the Titans’ ticket to the top spot in conference.
“I think the coaches did a very good job picking our schedule. We didn’t have an easy schedule,” Juarez said. “We played some of the top teams in the country, so I’m pretty sure that helped us a lot.”
The Titans plan to look beyond their losses and take conference play into their own hands, starting with their game against UCSB Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.
“We’re ready to take our first win for our conference (schedule) and hopefully, we get a ‘W,’” Sarr said. “The whole week we’ve been working on how (UCSB) plays and how we want to execute our plans to the way they’re playing their formations.”
The Titans are preparing for their first conference game by studying their opponents like they’re taking the biggest final of the semester.
“We take one game at a time, so right now it’s just Santa Barbara,” Juarez said.