The Orion

’Cats seize top-three ranking

Senior+forward+Omar+Nuno+battles+for+the+ball+against+a+Sonoma+State+player.+Photo+credit%3A+Jordan+Jarrell
Senior forward Omar Nuno battles for the ball against a Sonoma State player. Photo credit: Jordan Jarrell

Senior forward Omar Nuno battles for the ball against a Sonoma State player. Photo credit: Jordan Jarrell

Senior forward Omar Nuno battles for the ball against a Sonoma State player. Photo credit: Jordan Jarrell

Cydney Nance

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While a 0-3-1 start to its conference may have plagued the Chico State men’s soccer team, its meteoric rise to second has proven its resilience.

The team had plenty of scoring power with senior forwards Omar Nuno and Rajaee DeLane returning for their final season, but had difficulty finding the back of the net.

Nuno has led the team in scoring for two consecutive seasons and is the only player since 2003 to score at least 10 times in two back-to-back years. Despite this, he was unable to lead the team out of its opening struggle.

Junior midfielder Carter Johnson said the team’s problems in the beginning of its season were a result of bad fortune.

“We knew we were playing the right way and playing hard,” Johnson said. “We were organized just how we needed to be, the cards just weren’t in our favor.”

Although luck was not on the Wildcats’ side, the team battled to win seven of its last eight games to extend its time on the field with a postseason. The sudden success the team enjoyed was because of its dependability on its bench players.

Six of the team’s 18 goals during the conference season were from benched players, with two of the wins exclusively from players on the bench. Sophomore midfielder Esten Schroeder scored two game-winning goals for the team despite spending most of his time this season on the bench.

Schroeder said that he was upset with the rough start to the season, but was happy to see the hard work of the team pay off.

“It finally took us working together as a team and trusting in one another that broke us from the unsuccessful start,” Schroeder said.

The team managed to raise its last place ranking by 10 to tie with Sonoma State for second in the conference with 23 points. Chico State proved its win streak was fueled by more than luck with a 1-0 victory over the Seawolves Oct. 21.

The Wildcats capped off their conference with a five-game win streak, but are only just beginning the true test of their mettle, with the start CCAA Tournament Nov. 1 looming over them.

Chico State has not made it to the CCAA Tournament since 2013 when it lost in the Semifinals to UC San Diego 1-2. The Tritons currently hold the first place spot in the Wildcats conference, with an 8-2-1 record.

With a previous win against the ‘Cats rival Sonoma State, UC San Diego is the main contender the team will have to be weary of. The primary component of the Triton’s’ success is their defense, with only six goals allowed during the conference.

The team’s faced off Sept. 25 and UC San Diego snagged a 2-0 win. Chico State took almost the same number of shots but was able to make few quality attempts.

Nuno was the second-leading scorer in the conference this season with six and will be an important role player in the oncoming postseason. The team’s reliance on key players like Nuno puts a lot of pressure on its starters.

Despite the obstacles that lie ahead, Johnson said that he thinks momentum is on the team’s side.

“We easily could have given up after a rough start to the season, but now we have a winning streak and a well-deserved shot in the tournament,” Johnson said.

Although the team struggled earlier in the season, its found a way to overcome its early problems, according to DeLane.

“It isn’t about how we started the season it’s about how we’re ending it,” DeLane said. “We aren’t the team that just ended up here, we worked for it and earned it.”

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Cydney Nance can be reached at [email protected] or @CydneyNa on Twitter.

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’Cats seize top-three ranking