The Orion

Soccer program celebrates 50th anniversary

Nick Martinez-Esquibel

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Former men’s soccer player Michael Janjigian sets up on defense against Cal State Dominguez Hills last season. Photo Credit: John Domogma

Although the name has changed from the original Soccercats to Wildcats, one thing has remained the same for Chico State soccer during the last 50 years — a winning tradition.

Former coach Don Batie started that tradition when he took over in 1967. He went on to lead the team to a 326-153-45 record over 28 years, winning 14 conference championships.

“The first thing that comes to mind is winning,” said Felipe Restrepo, the current head coach. “There is a long line of success and amazing people.”

Mike O’Malley then took over as head coach in 1996 and picked up where Batie left off. O’Malley compiled a 117-113-11 record and led the team to best season it has ever had.

In 2003, the team won a record 21 games and reached the NCAA Division II Championship game. The benchmark of 21 wins still holds today, and the team has not been back to the NCAA Championship since.

In 2008, the torch was passed to Restrepo. Like those before them, he has led the team to a successful 72-31-18 overall record and has never had a season below .500.

“You can literally see photos of guys doing the same thing in ’69, ’70, that we’re doing in 2015,” Restrepo said. “it just really brings people together.”

The team will host its Alumni Weekend from May 1-3 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and they are expecting about 300 people to participate, Restrepo said.

Generations of players will enjoy a banquet, a golf tournament and other soccer activities during that time.

“It’s a great program with a great history,” said Russ Ellyson, current senior midfielder, “and lots of alumni that are kind of like family.”

Many great players have represented the Chico State soccer, and none more memorable than Chris Wondoloski.

“Wondo” played for the Wildcats 2001-2004 and helped lead the ‘Cats to the NCAA Division II Championship game in 2003.

He went on to play for the Major League Soccer team the San Jose Earthquakes, where he led the league in goals in 2010. His 18 goals won him the award of the Golden Boot, which is given to the player with the most goals in a season.

Wondoloksi then took his talents to the U.S. National Team, where he played as a sub in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

He is widely regarded as the the best player to set foot on the Chico State soccer field, but the record books indicate otherwise.

Former ‘Cat Ben Pollock has dominated Chico State’s soccer record book since he played from 1985 to 1988. Pollock is the all-time leader in career goals, assists and points and was All-American twice.

Off the field, the soccer team takes pride in giving back to the community that supports it. Local youth soccer players attend the game and work with Chico State players, Restrepo said.

“There’s two reasons why community service is important,” Restrepo said. “One is grooming young people to think about giving back. The other piece is being involved in the community we’re in and giving back.”

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter.

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Soccer program celebrates 50th anniversary