Cougars’ mix of chemistry and confidence leads to a promising start to the season.
The men’s squad is off to their best start in recent years. A 2-0 victory last week against 13th ranked Western Washington led the Cougars to a 3-1 record through the first four games of the season. With the win, head coach David Blomquist clinched the No. 2 spot on the program’s all-time winning list.
Blomquist attributed his team’s early success to their ball movement. He noted their ability to combine in the midfield and create scoring opportunities.
“We’re a passing team and we try and move it quickly and get into the attack,” head coach David Blomquist said. “I think this year the quality is there, and the chemistry is there, and you need both of those. So, I think that’s been a big part of our first four games.”
This time last season, the men’s team began the season 0-4. Record-wise, it was a stark contrast to the current season. However, Blomquist explained how just a few plays can make the difference.
“It’s a fine line between 0-4 last year and 3-1 this year. We’ve been playing a little better this year, but not that much better to have such a big swing,” Blomquist said. “The difference can be in a few plays each game, and I think this year the guys are finding a way, and they have the will to make some of those plays. Both in the attack—we’ve finished some great goals this year, but also in the back—making defensive plays to keep the other team from capitalizing too often.”
Another contribution to the team’s early success comes from the addition of international players. Blomquist acknowledged the impact that international players have made on this season and talked about what they bring to the table. He also explained how important it is for current and new players to build chemistry on and off the field.
“Their uniqueness in terms of their upbringing and
their background—everybody embraces it because it’s different and really cool,” Blomquist noted. “Every year, the returners do a fantastic job welcoming new players no matter where they’re from. Our off-field chemistry starts early on in training camp and then we hope it translates to on-field chemistry.”
Junior midfielder Ethan Hopkins shared his perspective and reaction to international recruits.
“They bring aspects different from American soccer,” Hopkins noted. “Language barriers aren’t much of a thing. We’re still a family. It’s just about figuring it out and working together. Eventually, it works out pretty well.”
Junior midfielder Bruno Pagani, an international recruit from Spain, talked about the impact of new recruits and the team’s overall winning mentality. He noted, with confidence, that this season could potentially be their best.
“Of course, we have three or four new recruits that are helping the team, but we started the preseason with a different mentality,” Pagani said. “I feel like everybody on this team is confident, and we trust each other, and you can see that on the field.”
The Cougars’ mix of chemistry and confidence seems like the recipe to a successful season. Just one game away from conference play, the Cougars hope to continue their winning habits.
“We want to win conference. The preseason games were definitely more challenging than most of the competitors in our conference, so I think that we have great chance,” Hopkins said.
The Cougars play against Westmont in Santa Barbara this Saturday. After that, they travel to Hawaii where they will play their first three PacWest conference games of the season.