By STEVEN TAVARES
The Pioneer Sports Editor
Forgive Jair Fory for feeling like Sisyphus.
Instead of carrying a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down, the Cal State East Bay men’s soccer coach is dribbling a soccer ball with same fate as the mythic ancient Greek.
Without a set roster less than week before the season, unavailable practice fields and a key performer from last season’s squad academically ineligible, the preseason has not been kind to Pioneers soccer.
“It’s very frustrating. They want a team, but how can I have a team without having them tryout first?” said Fory, “It’s like we’re going forward three steps and two back.”
Tensions between the men’s soccer team and the athletic department began to heat up when a notable returning starter from last season was deemed ineligible last Friday.
A discrepancy in the player’s transcripts was discovered precipitating his ineligibility.
Fory placed blame on the athletic program saying, “It’s their job to keep track.”
CSUEB Athletic Director Debby DeAngelis says an investigation is currently underway and hopes to have the issue resolved before the team opens its season Aug. 29 in Spokane, Wash.
Failure to monitor an athlete’s academic progress raises questions as to how the program will handle similar issues in the future when participation in Division II increases the amount of oversight needed for awarding scholarships.
“We’re on probation now for Division II, right?” said Fory, “If we can’t handle this, what if they put off allowing us in Division II?”
Last Monday, Fory held a tryout for over 40 new and returning players.
He says he will need to cut the roster to under 25 before opening the season.
His frustration increased when the planned two-a-day practice at Pioneers Stadium was moved to the upper soccer field primarily used by the women’s soccer team when the pitch was unmowed and without field stripes.
To make matters worse an inoperatible riding lawnmower was left on the playing surface making any practice time a possible liability for the university.
Said Fory, “It’s my first day of practice and I don’t have a field to practice. DeAngelis said a work order to the Facilities Department was sent weeks in advance, yet only the upper soccer field typically used by the women’s team was prepared.
Women’s Head Soccer Coach, Amy Geracie, whose squad also practiced last Monday, said field management has never been a problem in the past.
“This is just a one-time occurrence,” she said.
“It’s a stressful time of year for any coach,” said DeAngelis, “He’s got more people than he can keep, so he has to make some fairly quick evaluations and decisions.”
The perception that the Pioneers men’s soccer is the ugly stepchild of CSUEB has been pervasive for a few seasons said senior defender, Jordan Ferrell.
“There’s been a lot things I’ve seen here,” said Ferrell, “We do seem like the neglected program down here.”
While he admits that players on almost every team have qualms with the program’s treatment, his stories usually trump all others.
“I know people on a lot of the other teams here and they all think they get screwed, but when I tell them my stories they usually agree ours are worse,” said Ferrell.
Ferrell describes numerous instances over the years of sprinklers inexplicably interrupting practices and rumbling lawnmowers and tractors making communication on the field negligible.
He also said a team-organized practice on the CSUEB field this summer was broken up the university police.
“We’re not asking for Division I treatment, but we should be treated like intercollegiate athletes, at least,” said Ferrell.
DeAngelis said she was not aware with discontent on the soccer team and offered an open-door policy.
“I make a big point of saying, ‘If there’s something that needs to be fixed, I need to know about it,’” said DeAngelis, “I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken.”
DeAngelis says she has repeatedly offered Ferrell, who also participates in the student government and was a major student proponent for Division II, a spot on the Student Athletics’ Council.
On the pitch, Fory was impressed by two possible additions to the team in freshman Manuel Cardenas, an athletic defender who he calls a “smart tactical player” and junior transfer Chris Prado, a left back from Stockton.
Fory tried out Cardenas at sweeper Monday, a position the coach says needs to be filled and indicated he performed well.
A team-wide dearth of fitness, though, seems to have plagued some returning players according to Fory.
“I was kind of surprised about some of the guys who played before,” said Fory, “I think they’re not—flat out—in shape. That’s going to be a major problem.”
If the team is to succeed this season, the onus is going to be on the players to reach their potential.
“It’s shows commitment, especially coming from the guys from previous years,” said Fory, “It’s up to the athlete on what type of commitment they want to have. They know what the expectations are and if they fail those targets, it’s their own fault.”