Chico State’s soccer program is in safe hands for the future

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Noah Ross maneuvering between the Academy of Art defense on Sept. 22. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

The first year of college is a time filled with major lifestyle adjustments and figuring out how to live in a new atmosphere. For freshmen soccer players Noah Ross and Jacob Chong, time is not a luxury they have.

Both Ross and Chong have made huge contributions to their team, finding the net in just their first couple of games as new Wildcats. As freshmen, they have found ways to help their 5-1 record in search of winning a national title this year.

“Coming in as a freshman, I just expected to red-shirt and play the hardest I can,” Ross said. “… He (head coach Felipe Restrepo) started rotating me into games. I’ve gained more confidence as far as the rotation, knowing that I’m going to be prepared.”

The transition from playing high school sports to college sports can be a huge adjustment as they come in playing against more experienced competitors. There is no shortage of confidence between these two freshmen in making it to the next level.

In the team’s third match of the season, Ross helped seal the game by scoring his first goal, which put the team ahead 3-0. Chong has become a major scoring threat finding the net in half of the team’s matches with three of his own.

“It’s a totally different type of feeling when the ball goes in the net, you feel kind of like a high,” Chong said. “… You got happiness, you got a sense of completion, but right as score as you score that goal and once all that goes away you want to get right to the next goal.”

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Jacob Chong splitting two Academy of Art defenders to score his second goal of the season. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

To perform at such a high level at a young age requires a special level of focus and preparation. To get ready for this season, the two put in hundreds of hours in the gym to perform at their best. Both Chong and Ross explained the elite workout schedule head coach Restrepo had put together for them over summer; which included them running multiple miles each day.

“As long as you’re staying somewhat in shape, you can come back to Chico when the season starts, and he’ll (head coach Restrepo) work you,” Chong said. “He’ll work your ass off. When he does that you’ll get back into shape and you’ll be good to go when the first game starts.”

Ross found it best to get acclimated to the next level and played competitively with a semi-pro team over the break to get adjusted to the faster pace.

“Over summer I played for semi pro team in American Canyon back where I live,” Ross said. “We ended up being top 2 in the table. It was just something to kind of keep me in shape, keep touches on the ball.”

To come in and gain the respect of older competitors takes a lot of confidence. It is the single thing that can determine if one will play well or not.

“10,000 hours. I’ve been playing since I was four years old,” Chong said. “If you put 10,000 hours in, you’ll become an expert at something.”

The two couldn’t have asked for a better start to their careers on a new campus. Even with the recent success, the two will never be satisfied as they believe they can always produce more. With a team of 10 freshmen, the two are setting themselves up to be the next leaders of the Chico State soccer program.

“I definitely feel like there’s a good possibility that we leave a legacy,” Ross said. “With the big freshman recruiting class he (head coach Restrepo) made, there’s 10 of us coming in. …With the talent and good quality players coming, I for sure think we can leave a mark at Chico.”

Wesley Harris can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @jiggy_wes.