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Men's club soccer: Digging deep for work and play

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Daniel Schirrock gets tripped up by a New Mexico defender during a men's soccer game on Sunday. Even though the men's soccer club team has to scrape for road-trip funds, many of the players say they get to enjoy a highly competitive sport without the pressures of being Division I athletes off the field.
By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
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Players pay expenses out of pocket; find games worth price

As Arizona men's club soccer head coach David Hunter walked away from practice on Sept. 12, an errant ball flew toward the 35-year-old club soccer veteran.

In one smooth motion, Hunter flipped off both sandals and fired the ball back off his tattooed right foot without missing a beat.

The play was a perfect example of what the men's club soccer team is all about - being a little rough around the edges, yet at the same time, being serious, effective and cool on the pitch.

That attitude has come into play often with the team, least of all with its finances. The team lacks official university recognition because of the Title IX Education Amendments of 1972 that made all upper-education facilities equalize their sports opportunities for males and females.

As a result, with many new teams having poured into the Arizona athletic department over the last three decades, the men's club soccer team is funded by one source - itself.

"We pray," said Hunter about how he pays for the team's road trips. "We rely on everyone's parents, and we go into debt."

Along with the required $100 monthly fee, which goes mostly toward hotels, Hunter said, the players have to pay for all other expenses on trips, including food and drinks.

"It probably costs each player $1,000 a year," Hunter said.

The team travels to different states and has two games every weekend, along with three practices during the week.

Hunter said the major difference with his program and the one recognized by the university is the time commitment.

"The only thing we don't do that a Division I team does is practice five times a week," he said.

The "club" title has presented a few downsides for the team.

Over the weekend, players had to mark the lines at the Rincon Vista field for their showdown with rival ASU.

We pray. ...We rely on everyone's parents, and we go into debt. - David Hunter, head coach

During the Wildcats' 2-1 loss to ASU, the Arizona men's club lacrosse team was practicing about 10 yards from the south goal, and an occasional lacrosse ball flew into the playing field during the match.

During Sunday's game against New Mexico State, Wildcats assistant coach Steve Fuhryg had to leave the game at halftime to go shag balls for the Arizona soccer game with New Mexico at Murphy Stadium, one field over.

But with every negative comes a positive, and the Arizona players said they can still enjoy the fierce competition of club soccer without the pressure of being a Division I athlete off the field.

Senior Ryan Ward said that at the club soccer national championships last year in Austin, Texas, the team focused on the games first, but afterward managed to have a good time.

"After the game, we had a blast and went out on the town," Ward said.

Don't mistake this team for a bunch of jokers. Over the summer, sophomore midfielder Tyler Geisert said he was jobless for most of the summer and spent a lot of his free time juggling a soccer ball in a 10-foot room.

"I did it every day when I got bored," he said. "It helped my first touch."

Hunter said that some students might drop off the team because of the time commitment, but made it clear that his team is made up of the best players in Tucson.

"I don't have any player that's good enough to play on this team that leaves it," he said. "Every person out here will at some point in time, either now or very soon in the future, bleed crimson and navy."

The Wildcats are 2-1-1 this year, with their most recent victory coming Sunday against the Aggies.

Already in the first month of school, the team has traveled to California, Texas and New Mexico for matches and will make another trip to the Land of Enchantment this weekend.

The team lacks tents to shade them from the beating sun, a luxury the Arizona soccer team has during game days, as well as the abundance of school paraphernalia handed out to almost every official Wildcat athlete.

But the players still share one thing with their more-recognized peers - the "Arizona" on their jerseys when the whistle blows.

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