Veteran Squad Seeks to Bounce Back After Disappointing 2009 Campaign

Photo: Davis Paul is one of seven seniors on this year's Cal men's soccer team. Paul is slotted to start at forward and is expected to shoulder the goal void left by Andrew Wiedeman.
Emma Lantos/File
Davis Paul is one of seven seniors on this year's Cal men's soccer team. Paul is slotted to start at forward and is expected to shoulder the goal void left by Andrew Wiedeman.

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Before practice even begins for the Cal men's soccer team, the players have a chance to jump-start their competitive side.

Soccer tennis, a warm up coach Kevin Grimes started seven years ago, encourages touches on the ball and a chance to get their legs warmed up to quickly transition into the day's training.

Despite the early practice time and the long trek to the Golden Bear field by the Clark Kerr campus, the team is yelling and stoking its ambitious side by sticking with pairs that have brought the best success in the warmup.

According to freshman Alec Sundly, the duo of seniors Servando Carrasco and Scot VanBuskirk is the one to beat.

Carrasco, a co-captain along with seniors A.J. Soares and Hector Jimenez, heads into his last season with the Bears as one of the many veterans on the team.

"He really knows our program inside and out," Grimes said. "He can take that knowledge and really apply that, whether in how we warm up or how we conduct ourselves on an airplane and everything in between."

The midfielder will not be the only one providing a strong presentation of returning talent.

Returning eight of its starters, Cal begins its campaign as a strong and talented squad with a dedication to fierce competition.

"This is the most talented team that has ever played at Cal, at least since I have been here," Carrasco said. "Whether is be on the training field or in an official game, the mentality is the same-you need to outcompete and outwork your opponent."

The players' key to tapping into the experience and depth that the team possesses this season is to not get too ahead of themselves, Carrasco said.

"The emphasis is on preparation and improvement," Grimes said. "Those are the two main things we look at in a season and on the long journey-that we are improving and preparing the best that we can."

Last year, the Bears (9-8-1, 3-6-1 in the Pac-10) faced a slew of injuries that set them back, closing their season at sixth in the Pac-10.

Rebounding off of the disappointments from last year, the squad boasts a healthy front with high hopes for a better season.

"We have to win more games," Carrasco said. "We attack really well and we just need to play our game. We can't wait for the game to come to us, we have to go at it."

Both he and Jimenez, the 2009 Pac-10 leader in assists, will anchor the midfield with their experience.

Sophomore Chris Ortega and senior Davis Paul leave the flanks for the frontline this year. Sophomore Tony Salciccia is expected to see the field this year too. Paul, is expected to be a primary scoring threat after the departure of Andrew Wiedeman to the MLS.

Soares will help lead the backfield at defender, accompanied by senior Demetrius Omphroy as well as standout sophomore Steve Birnbaum.

All of them will play in front of junior goalkeeper David Bingham, who has established himself as one of the strongest keepers in the Pac-10, if not the nation.

As prepared as it has ever been at the beginning of a season, Cal kicks off the year in Bloomington, Ind. to face the No. 20 Hoosiers and No. 18 Notre Dame in this weekend's Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic before returning home next week.

"Each year the team has the ability to create their own destiny or dreams," Grimes said. "That's in the hands of the coaches and players to manifest that for them. To me, that's the real key to a season."


Kelly Suckow covers men's soccer. Contact her at [email protected]

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