UCR’s men’s soccer team has received the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award. This award contributes to their winning streak, as they won the most recent Big West tournament and ranked in the top 25 nationally during the 2019 fall season. Head coach Tim Copello is incredibly proud of the constant state of improvement that his team has been on over the past few years.

“Over the past 2 academic years, we continue to achieve levels of success our program hasn’t achieved in the past,” Copello said. “It is all due to a shared commitment between our student-athletes and our support staff to pursue excellence in everything that we do.”

The United Soccer Coaches is the National Coaches Association with over 32,000 members. The award is granted to collegiate teams that earn a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or more. The UCR men’s team earned a cumulative GPA of 3.3. According to Copello, this new level of success could have not been possible without the mass efforts of both coaches and student-athletes alike. In an email interview with The Highlander, Copello stated that a few years ago, the men’s soccer team implemented what they call the Academic Game Plan (APG). The APG focused on time-management skills, mandatory attendance to office hours and weekly meetings with the coaching staff. Copello, along with the rest of the coaching staff, believe that the integration of these values will benefit their players in their collegiate journey, as well as later on in their professional careers. Recognizing the large number of first generation college students on his roster, the coaching staff hope to provide a system of support.

“We have a wide range of individuals that make up our roster. Many of them are first generation college students. Many times they just need a little bit of guidance and practice to reach their full potential as a student,” he said.

Even though it was the coaching staff that integrated these core values of excellence into the fabric of the team, it was the student-athletes who worked incredibly hard in order to triumph and win big, despite the massive hurdles put in place by the current pandemic. Leonardo Targia, third-year goalkeeper, and Daniel Aguirre, third-year midfielder, both recognized the hard work and dedication of the entire team and staff.

“I believe that our coaching staff and all our athletic department did an amazing job in offering all the resources to be successful even when we were in the middle of a pandemic. This recognition is the result of many efforts put by every member of the team,” said Targia. “This is definitely an amazing feeling. Our school and our athletic department deserve to always be at the top. We will keep working in bettering ourselves every day and honor UC Riverside on and off the field.”

“Bringing this recognition to the school for the first time makes me proud. I’m proud of my team, but not surprised. Not only do we push each other on the field, but in every way we can. This is our first recognition, but I promise it won’t be our last,” said Aguirre.