Two years ago on Nov. 10, the UCR men’s soccer team made history by winning their first Big West title in the history of the program. After suffering through a disappointing season, with an early record of 0 wins, 7 losses and 1 tie, the team managed to turn things around and bring the Big West trophy home. The Highlanders were able to appear in the Big West Conference Tournament final after defeating the Cal State Fullerton Titans in a dramatic 3-2 game. UCR entered the tournament with a postseason record of 7 wins, 9 losses and 3 ties.
The title-winning game was played against UC Davis on UCR’s home turf. After an intense game, the score was 0-0 at the end of regulation time. For the first go-around, both teams exchanged goals, ultimately tying at 1-1. However, a mistake by UC Davis player Robert Mejia allowed UCR the advantage they needed. Sophomore forward Roberto Garcia and goalkeeper Edwyn Gutierrez worked in tandem to help UCR take the lead at 2-1. The Highlanders maintained their aggressive attitude throughout, finishing the game with nine of their 15 shots on target, which was impressive compared to the Aggies’ own three of nine shots on target.
Taking the game to penalties, it was freshman David Castaneda who once again scored the game-winning goal, fresh off of his win against CSU Fullerton. Castaneda closed the game with a score of 4-2. Their victory allowed UCR to advance to the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.
In an interview with the Press Enterprise, Tim Cupello spoke about the fierce determination his team demonstrated despite the disappointing losses. “These guys never lost hope, never gave up. You just continue to reinforce that what we’re doing will pay off eventually.”
At the NCAA tournaments, the Highlanders experienced great competition, winning all of their games but one. Then, sophomore Daniel Aguirre was named the tournament MVP and attributed the team’s success to their ability to unite with a common goal in mind.
“Those seven games, we weren’t playing bad,” said Aguirre in an interview with the Press Enterprise. “It was just little moments in the game, we would collapse, and as a group, we all came together because we knew (in the) Big West you can’t turn off the moments or they’ll punish you. As a group, we all came together, and we fixed it.”
Since then, the Highlanders have focused on improving both on and off the field to continue this streak of success. This past year, they were awarded the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award. They look to the future and hope to bring home more titles, despite the uncertainty of the continuation of UCR Athletics.