Soccer team faces uncertain future

Facile roster depth reflects interest, season forfeit viable

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

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Out of the 87 women’s soccer teams across California community colleges, which are now four weeks into non-conference play, Contra Costa College has yet to play any of them so far this season.

Comet women’s soccer coach Amanda Beckenhauer said she and her staff decided to cancel their first game against Shasta College, Hartnell College, and subsequent games against West Hills-Lemoore College and De Anza College, due to a lack of players; which stems from various commitment and eligibility issues with the program.

Beckenhauer said in total she has had about 15 players show up to practices or her office in GA-13 wanting to join the team over the summer.

But as the semester started that number dropped to nine, and now only seven players are officially on the roster as of press time.

“Since the semester started the number of players I’ve had on the team at once has gone up and down,” she said. “I think we had a solid 11 (players) for about at week.”

She said she informed the seven players about the challenges of playing games without substitutes and not being able to play with a full starting roster of 11 players during practice last week.

Freshman Comet fullback Shirley Correa said when the coaching staff asked the team if they are willing to play out the season with only seven players there were “mixed feelings” among some, but “for the most part we want to play.” 

Regardless of these mixed feelings, Beckenhauer said the Comet’s first conference game will be at Los Medanos College on Friday at 4 p.m. and added that she will do everything in her power to recruit more players to “save” a season on the verge of cancellation. 

Two players had to drop out of the program last week because they were not enrolled in enough course units, Beckenhauer said, while two other players said their work schedule conflicted with practice and game times.

But since then, she said two more potential players have come forward and all they have to do is enroll into a two-unit class before the game against LMC.

To be eligible to play on any athletic team at CCC, one must be enrolled in 12 units and maintain a 2.0 GPA or better.

If these players are eligible, they will bring the number of players on the official team roster back up to nine players in total.

As of now there are only seven players on the official roster however. And according to FIFA’s Rules and Regulations, adopted by the California Community College Athletics Association (CCCAA), it is the minimum number of players that a team can field and still play.

“Some of the girls on the team are saying we shouldn’t play because we won’t be able to win,” freshman Comet striker Zoe Glover said.  “I think we should play (out the season). I don’t think we can win a game with only seven players, but we can try our best to hold our own defensively.”

CCCAA Director of Sports Information and Communication Jason Boggs said with the current official roster of seven players, if a single person on the team were unable to make it to a game then it would be forced to forfeit. And if a single player drops from the program entirely then the team may have to postpone the season altogether.

Boggs said, “The only other team in the state that has contacted (CCCAA) to forfeit its season is Allan Hancock (College in Santa Maria), but even they played at least one game.”

He added that if the Comets were to abandon the season, its players would keep their eligibility and be able to return to play for the team next year.

Athletic Director John Wade said canceling the season is a real possibility if Beckenhauer and her staff are unable to recruit more players to provide a cushion in case another player drops from the program.

Wade said playing a game three players down is “tough”, but playing through an entire soccer season with only seven players and no substitutions is “beyond tough” considering how much running is involved.

To avoid this, he said it may be in the best interest for the women’s soccer team for its coach to contact other women teams on campus, district, and ask the coaches if they would be willing to loan some players, or postpone the season.

“If there are not enough players (by the time conference play begins on Sept. 18) we may have to cancel the season, it’s happened before,” Wade said. “The state will be pissed since there has been a big push to get women participating in sports.

“I don’t know if not being able to get female student-athletes to commit to a team is a cultural issue or what but I’m concerned. This is not a good situation.”

The last time the women’s soccer team at CCC had to cancel its season was in 2008, current men’s, and former women’s, soccer coach Nikki Ferguson said.

Glover said the team is still looking for additional student-athletes interested in playing this season and suggests that anyone wanting to join should make sure they work out conflicting schedules with their work or professors.

“(Beckenhauer) will be flexible for anyone who wants to join,” she said. “At this point (in the season) she won’t be upset if you didn’t sign up for the summer training class.”

Competing for interest

Beckenhauer said she visited most of the high schools in CCC’s service area, which spans from Pinole to Kengsinton, over the summer to try and recruit players.

But out of the 30 players she said she contacted only half followed through with a second meeting, and only 7 of those players are officially eligible to play for the Comet team this season as of press time.

Diablo Valley College women’s soccer coach Cailin Mullins said while the Vikings are not in the same conference as CCC, she has faced similar recruitment “challenges” that makes it hard to tell how a season will unfold.

“I can sympathize with challenge that recruiting at a (community college) level brings. I have been at DVC a long time and (recruiting) gets easier, but it was a struggle every year,” Mullins said. “I learned not to get too excited, or expect something out of a season because things can fall apart at the last minute and then you have to scramble for bodies.

“Or you could lose sleep because you are concerned about how the season will pan out and suddenly you find a couple good players and go on to have a fantastic season.”

Currently, she said the Vikings are four games into the season with 26 players on the official roster.

Beckenhauer said the general consensus of her seven players is to play out the season, but a general lack of interest from female athletes at the two-year college level is “frustrating” for everyone involved with the team.

Glover said, “When the third game of the season was cancelled I wasn’t really frustrated, but more irritated that players who left are not as committed as we are and now we have to suffer.

“The main reason I came to (CCC) was to play soccer. That was the first thing on my mind—even before my classes.”

Beckenhauer said she aims to have eleven players before conference play starts and has asked her players to reach out to friends, family and classmates who may be interested in playing soccer for CCC.

“When I was hired (as the women’s soccer coach) the program had been cancelled the year before,” Ferguson said. “I came in at ground zero—it took a lot of hard work bringing players back into the program.

It took making the players feel like you want them to come to CCC and be part of the program,” he said. “It’s not like they called me, I had to go to the same high school two to three times in a week to show that I was very much interested in them joining the program—its more important for women to show that you truly care.

“But the last thing you want to do as a coach is fold. If I had seven bodies ready to compete I’d follow through—because at the end of the day it’s all about creating competition.”

Comet midfielder Dominique Trevino said for the most part the seven players officially on the roster want to play, but if one person gets injured or drops then the team CCC won’t be able to finish the season.

But even if players and coaches were able to draw in four more female student athletes to field a starting 11, the team would still have to endure the season without substitutions.

Wade said the low interest in joining the CCC’s women’s soccer team may stem from societal pressures that make potential female athletes move away from sports once they enter the 2-year college level from high school and focus entirely on academics.

Mullins agrees with Wade. She said its “difficult” to get a large interest year after year because female student athletes come and go for a variety of reasons at the community college level.

And if they do join the team, Wade said, they may have joined without realizing that you have to be a full-time student and once they are clear about the requirements they tend to drop from the program.