Corsairs mark return with early victories

By Dan Raffety

How sweet it is to be home again.

Santa Monica College (SMC) has revived its men’s soccer program, led by Head Coach Tim Pierce, after its nearly 20-year dormancy from the college. The Corsairs have begun their season 3-0 with victories of 3-1, 3-1, and 4-0 in each of the contests, respectively.

The men’s soccer program disappeared in 1993. Rumors such as on-field issues, budgetary cuts and issues with Title IX have erupted as to the cause, however it is unclear what the determining factor was in taking the team off the field nearly 20 years ago.

“History has eaten the truth,” said Athletic Director Joe Cascio. “There are rumors out there, but the thing to focus on is that we are back and excited to have the men’s soccer program back on the field.”

At the beginning of each school year, the college collects surveys from incoming students and one of the questions is what sports team they would like to see on campus.

“Men’s soccer was number-one on our list,” said Cascio. “It has as many votes as football and basketball combined. That’s when we really took a hard look at making this a reality.”

University President Chui L Tsang was in complete support as well to have the program return to campus.

“I am happy to be one of the people to bring men’s soccer back to Santa Monica College,” said Tsang. “We have a great tradition with the women, so I hope that men’s soccer will be just as popular as the women’s soccer.”

The school has to get approval to re-enter the Western State Conference, be financially secure in absorbing the new sport in the budget and coordinate Corsair Field time with both the women’s soccer and men’s football teams.

There were thoughts about moving the team to another venue to ease scheduling conflicts, but Cascio was adamant in his position to keep the team on campus.

“I wanted to compete on campus,” said Cascio. “It just wouldn’t be the same if our team moved off to another venue. It was an important decision for us.”

Cascio was also in charge of hiring a coach and chose Pierce because of his dedication to the program. Pierce, who formerly was an assistant coach on the women’s soccer team, has also coached a club soccer team in Los Angeles, and played soccer professionally in El Paso, TX as well as on the collegiate level at UCLA.

Pierce notes how excited the players are for this opportunity to play: “This has been a long-time coming for the players,” said Pierce. “They are just excited to be out there on the field.”

However, because SMC is a community college designed to transfer students and athletes to four-year universities, the turnaround is much quicker, he added.

“You can count on a new team every year,” said Pierce. “Guys come in brand new, return, but then move on and new guys come in. It’s a cycle that happens much faster than in a school where players are there for all four years.

“The challenge is forming our identity as a team in such a short amount of time and that identity changing as players come and go.”

Despite the fast transition, the SMC coaching staff is on the same page in terms of what they communicate to their players.

“Executing player development and discipline on and off the field is my philosophy,” said Pierce.

“We obviously want to be competitive in every game we play and try to win every game, but we really want to form a culture this year,” said Pierce. “This year in this program is definitely something to build on.”

Cascio echoed the support the program has seen in its first week back on the field.

“There were over 175 to 200 people at the team’s first game,” said Cascio. “Vice presidents, deans, and the president all came out to support the team in their first week of play. The support is something special.

“I have heard nothing but positive statements from people in all sorts of places about the team.”

The Corsairs defeated Santiago College and Desert College 3-1 in the first two games and shut out Victor Valley College by a score of 4-0 to improve the team record to 3-0.

The team played Oxnard College Sept. 11, and finished with a 2-2 tie. The Corsairs face off against Moorpark College in a visiting game at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14. ¤