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Away games challenge Chico State athletes

Sergio Sanchez

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Luis Martinez, men's soccer player

Al Pacino gave a speech to his team in “Any Given Sunday” that resonates with every athlete hoping to beat competition in unfamiliar territory.

“The margin for error is so small,” Pacino said. “I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast, and you don’t quite catch it.”

Chico State athletes deal with unfamiliar territory every time they travel to other cities. The setting and feedback from fans can affect the pace of a game.

Playing UC San Diego during the NCAA Championship Tournament in San Diego was overwhelming, said Luis Martinez, a senior men’s soccer player.

“There was a lot of people yelling at you and if you didn’t keep focus, you could be thrown off your game,” Martinez said. “I was playing left midfielder and the fans were right in my ear yelling my name, my height and even how much I weighed. They knew everything about me.”

Playing a rival school adds extra emotion to a game and brings a different feel to it. Playing at Sonoma State or Humboldt State, Chico State’s rivals, heightens the nerves of athletes and fans.

“Sonoma is always a tough one because their fans are really loud and they’re our archrival,” Martinez said. “If we win, of course it feels good, but if they beat us, we hate it.”

The size of the stadium in San Bernardino, Calif. was something Natalie Nordahl, a first-year student on the Chico State women’s volleyball team, noticed at once.

“Walking into the gym was kind of intimidating because it was so big and different than any other gym,” Nordahl said.

UC San Diego’s volleyball fans really stood out.

“They were shouting a lot of things during the game, but eventually you’re able to block it out,” Nordahl said. “We all love playing the game and no matter what people yell or try to do, we’re still playing volleyball.”

Dealing with fans and other distractions is something teams must face together.

“During a timeout or break, it’s your teammates who will help you focus back in the game,” Nordahl said. “As long as you listen to your teammates and what they say during the game, it’s easy to tune everything else out.”

Sergio Sanchez can be reached at [email protected] or
@sergechez on Twitter

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