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First-years having early success on men’s soccer team

Jose Olivar

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Chico State men's soccer player Patrick Lee approaches a defender in a game earlier this season.

One of the biggest issues for the Chico State men’s soccer team this season was the departure of 11 players last year.

Because of that, the Wildcats needed help from their incoming first-years and transfers to make it to the playoffs for the sixth time under head coach Felipe Restrepo.

Just four games into the season, the new players are making their presence known by helping the team kick off the season with a 3-0-1 record. One of the key first-years has been Patrick Lee, who has contributed four assists in the team’s first four games.

“I think Lee is a special player,” he said. “He’s got four years left in the program, and we’ve got a lot of high expectations for him.”

During the ‘Cats’ first game against Dominican University, Lee posted two assists that contributed to the team’s season-opening win.

Restrepo said he is looking forward to seeing Lee’s development as a player, along with the other first-years on the team.

Matt Hurlow, one of last year’s returners, said Lee’s contribution so far has been huge for the team.

“He’s crafty,” Hurlow said. “When he gets the ball on set pieces, the ball seems to find the back of the net.”

Lee said his work ethic is the reason for his recent success.

That hard-working attitude is something that is helping set the tone for the other first-years in the team, said Zach Bradford, assistant coach.

“He’s working hard on his own, working at our trainings and he just can’t get enough of it,” Bradford said. “He’s a pretty special player. He just always strives for more which is nice to see.”

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First-year forward Patrick Lee centers the ball for a Wildcat corner kick minutes into the match Sept. 4. Photo credit: John Domogma

Lee said he hasn’t always been so successful. He recalls spending most of his time on the bench in his early playing days, until he began training more often.

“I didn’t start, and that motivates you to work harder,” he said. “Day in, day out, you’re waking up earlier than everybody, training before everybody – you put in more work.”

All his hard work started to pay off around the age of 12, when he started to notice that he was playing a lot better than his previous years, Lee said.

Lee played for Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove for a year before getting picked up by San Juan Academy, a youth soccer club out of Sacramento.

During his time at the San Juan Academy, he played against boys from MLS academies and youth soccer clubs that developed players for senior MLS teams.

Despite facing tough competition, he led his team in goals, Lee said.

In his third year of high school, Lee traveled to Sweden to pursue a career as a professional soccer player. In Sweden, Lee tried out for a professional soccer club called Örebro SK.

Though things were going well, he ended up not playing for the team because of a promise he made his parents, he said.

“My parents wanted me to get an education first before I pursued my dream of being a professional soccer player,” he said. “So that’s what I basically did to honor my parents.”

When Lee came back to the U.S., he was trying to pick different schools to go to, until finally choosing to attend Chico State partly because of his familiarity with Restrepo, Lee said.

As for the team, he is very optimistic of the future, he said. Bringing the mentality he has had his entire career, success will be easy to come by as long as they keep training hard.

“We have to train; practice makes perfect,” he said. “It’s always about discipline. If we follow that, the program is going to keep going up.”

Jose Olivar can be reached at [email protected] or @jpu_olivar on Twitter.

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First-years having early success on men’s soccer team