The Highlanders men’s soccer team (2-11-0,2-4-0) suffered a 4-0 loss to UC Irvine (7-5-3, 2-2-2) on Wednesday, Oct. 11 on the heels of earning their first victory of the season, 2-0, against UC Davis (7-6-2, 4-1-1) on Saturday, Oct. 7. A big part of the team’s win against UC Davis was senior midfielder Ricardo Ruiz, who scored UCR’s second goal of the game with his only shot of the match.

The Highlanders have had about as bad of a start as a team can possibly have, going winless over their first ten games of the season, but Ruiz continues to enjoy his final year because of the team’s resilience. “We’re facing a lot of adversity,” Ruiz acknowledges. “As a team we’ve done a good job of staying mentally strong. We’re trying to turn our season around at the end and finish strong.”

The Highlanders have had plenty of chances to throw in the towel, especially early in their 0-10 start, but the team is starting to bounce back, winning two of their last three games. Last season, UCR finished with only four conference wins and they were able to make it into the Big West Tournament, so the team could still potentially reach that same win tally and make the tournament this season. In the Big West South Division all teams have two wins, but Riverside is two points out of first place.

Ruiz was born in the city of Orange before moving to Santa Ana where he lived for just over five years. Then Ruiz and his family settled down in Lake Elsinore until he chose to play soccer at the collegiate level for Riverside. The fourth-year midfielder said in our conversation on Friday that playing soccer has always been his favorite thing to do for as long as he can remember. Ruiz recalls how he used to “just play soccer all the time” when he was younger and his love for the game seemed to be in his blood.  “My father played soccer when he was younger and he grew up playing soccer and that’s how my parents ended up meeting at a soccer game, so then obviously when I grew up first thing I did was touch a ball.” Ruiz struggles to hide his smile when describing how he got into the sport and, it’s evident through his vibrant tone how much he has enjoyed playing the game.

Off of the pitch, Ruiz is just a typical college student. He jokes that he doesn’t really have much fun now that classes started, before going on to share that he’s a big UFC fan and enjoys hanging out with friends. Ruiz also shared what his pre-game playlist is, which is a bit nontraditional. “It’s more of a slow and motivational video type of thing,” he shares, “Not much of a crazy hype video, it’s more of a motivational video.” This pre-game routine is indicative of his laid-back demeanor.

Something Ruiz has grown passionate about is law enforcement, mentioning that he wants to focus on getting into the narcotics or gang violence division once he graduates this year. “There’s been a bunch of things going on in this world that’s just crazy so I do a lot of research into that stuff,” he says.

Ruiz has scored at least two goals in each of the past three seasons. He and the Highlanders will be back in action on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Cal State Northridge (7-6-2, 2-2-2). Last year, CSUN beat the Highlanders both times the sides squared off.