Cal men’s soccer opens regular season play against West Virginia

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Phillip Downey/File

There’s something undeniably refreshing about the first week of a new school year. For continuing students, it’s a clean slate which provides separation from all previous semesters. For freshmen, it’s the beginning of a whole new chapter, ripe with untapped opportunity and potential.

Not only will the student-athletes of Cal men’s soccer experience the excitement of a new semester in the classroom this week, they’ll also feel it on the field this Friday evening when they take on West Virginia in the first game of the 2017 season.

Clad in brand new Under Armour uniforms, the Bears will begin to seek redemption following last year’s disappointing 5-10-2 season.

“We want to have a more balanced energy level,” said head coach Kevin Grimes. “We want to come into preseason with our tank of gas full, instead of half empty, like last year.”

Last season, Cal’s fuel seemed to run out in the latter half of the season, winning just one game in October and November, despite having gone 3-2-1 to start the year. This proved to be detrimental to their playoff hopes, given that the second half of the season features conference opponents.

“We want to keep playing like we did, the first half of last season, all of spring and all of preseason this year,” said coach Grimes. “We looked really good and again our momentum and energy was high during these times.”

The pressure of the first game of the season will certainly be weighing a bit lighter on the Bears’ shoulders, given that the Mountaineers’ star player Joey Piatczyc is out for the season due to a knee injury. The senior midfielder currently holds the West Virginia school record for average assists per game at .48.

Despite Piatczyc’s absence, West Virginia won its first game of the season, an exhibition match against Charleston.

During coach Grimes’ 18-year tenure, Cal men’s soccer has not faced West Virginia.

As for the Bears, all eyes will be on redshirt senior Jose Carrera-Garcia. The midfielder recorded six goals last season, nearly a quarter of Cal’s total in 2016. He was also recently named to the preseason All Pac-12 team.

Cal’s six new freshmen will also look to make an impact in whatever ways they can. Adapting to the intensity of NCAA-level soccer is no small feat, but with considerable time spent practicing with the team under their belts, the rookies appear untroubled.

“All of them are outstanding players and can step on a collegiate field and contribute right now,” said Coach Grimes. “They’ll all have an impact on the group whether it be on the field, from the sideline or culture-wise.”

With anticipation undoubtedly running high for freshmen and returning players alike, the Bears will look to etch a win onto the clean slates of the 2017 season.

Adriana Ghiozzi covers men’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].

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