Chico State Men’s Soccer season ended sour but the future looks bright


Javier Hernandez

Team huddle prior to their match vs. Sonoma State

Uncertainties loomed as the soccer season approached since there was speculation that COVID-19 was going to end it once again. 

That didn’t stop the 2021-22 Chico State Men’s Soccer team from staying ready for whatever came their way.

After their first match of the season, where they beat the Western Washington Vikings 1-0, the season started off looking strong. However, they dropped six games in a row. 

Despite the rough patch of games, this Wildcat team was fighting and never gave up for their ultimate goal.

They snapped their losing streak on Oct. 3 against The San Marcos Coyotes, thanks to Wildcat forward Miles Rices.

He scored the sole and game winning goal with less than a minute remaining.

This win seemed to flip the switch for the Wildcats, but they dropped their next two conference games. 

After back-to-back losses, the Wildcats regrouped and won their next three conference games.

The tides turned and the Wildcats started playing their best ball at the right time. Their Senior Day kept getting delayed because of the terrible weather that Chico was experiencing. 

This led to a game at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, where they lost 1-0 to the Sonoma State Seawolves. 

During their losing streak, the Wildcats played the current No. 6 ranked Division 2 team in the nation, the Cal State Los Angeles Golden Eagles. They gave them their toughest challenge of the season, but Chico State lost 2-3.

It all came down to the last game of the season against the Humboldt State Lumberjacks.

The Wildcats with a win were in the playoffs, while the Lumberjacks were in with any result besides a loss.

The Wildcats went up 1-0 in the first half on behalf of Wildcat forward Jacob Chong.

With three minutes left in the game, the Lumberjacks drew a penalty and the season was on the line for Lumberjack forward Marcos Silveria.

Wildcat keeper Luis Albarran was the hero and saved the penalty, which clinched a California Collegiate Athletic Association playoff berth.

The Wildcats then took a trip to San Bernandino to face off against the Coyotes. 

The game was near overtime periods and the Wildcats conceded a goal with a minute remaining and were eliminated from further CCAA play.

The Wildcats finished their season with a 6-12 record, and with a 5-6 CCAA record.

For next season, the Wildcats will be losing three seniors; Servando Higuera, Anais Mayo and Cooper Renteria. 

“Cherish every moment with your teammates because they’re like family and these guys are going to rock with you through thick and thin,” Higuera said.

The good thing for this program is that they will be returning a plethora of key players. 

Goalkeeper: Albarran, now a sophomore, is returning with another year of experience. He was an All-CCAA honorable mention. He led the CCAA with 78 saves and was third in average saves per match.

Defense: Sophomore Noah Ross converted defender started 14 games. Freshman Trevor Fritz started 13 games. Sophomore Ben Souza started 17 games. Freshman Connor Gorrien started the first seven games and then sustained a season ending injury. 

Midfield: Sophomore Mauro Rafeal started 15 straight games, then sustained a nagging injury which sidelined him. Freshman Cayden Hotaling started 11 games. Sophomore Adrian Fontanelli started seven games. Freshman Liam Duerksen started all 18 games and earned second team All-CCAA honors, while leading the team in assists (8), which was good for second in the CCAA.

Forward: Sophomore Jacob Chong started 12 games, led the team in goals (7) and was an All-CCAA honorable mention. Freshman Miles Rice started 17 games, while scoring one goal and assisting in another. Sophomore Juan Perez started five games, while also scoring one goal and assisting in another.

A lot of experienced players are coming back to head coach Felipe Restrepo and assistant Austin Schwartz.

Restrepo said the biggest thing that will help next year’s team is experience. He says how much a shortened off season and pre-season affected the team’s ability to gel and become one. 

“The fact that the group was predominantly freshmen and sophomores and made the playoffs is hopeful,” Restrepo said. “You are excited for what is down the road for the group if they continue to put the time and work in.”

Restrepo’s excited to see this team work and get better over time. He said he and his assistant have to do their part but it’s going to rely on the team’s willingness to work.

“In my mind I know, knowing the traditions of our program and knowing this group I think they will do it,” Restrepo said. “At the end it is up to them.”

Duerksen said this team showed resilience and never gave up through the tough times of the season.  

“As a group, we are going to always fight and improve,” Duerksen said. 

Former captain and now Chico State Men’s Soccer alumnus Renteira said the up and down season will make this group better for the future.

“They have the potential to be the best team in the conference,” Renteria said, “and I know they can achieve that.”

Javier Hernandez can be contacted at [email protected] or @jhm1226 on Twitter.