The University of Texas may not have an NCAA Division 1 soccer team, but that hasn’t stopped students from finding a way to fuel their passion for the game.
The UT Men’s Club Soccer team is where students who want to continue to play competitive soccer find themselves.
“We’re the top level of soccer here,” said right backer and club President Rob Jelinek. “The talent level is very high because there is no Division 1 soccer team here, and a lot of people want to come to Texas for other reasons.”
In addition to its many talented players the Club also has a rich history, which includes two NCSA National Club Soccer Championships and two NIRSA National Club Soccer Championships. Texas now plays in the Texas Collegiate Soccer League, where they have finished in first place in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and made it to the National Championship Round of 16 four times since 2000.
The team will try to multiply their success despite a new flock of players taking larger roles on the team.
“We had 11 seniors graduate and go. So a lot of experience disappeared,” said club head coach Matt Prewett. “The team has a lot of freshmen, sophomores and new faces and hopefully we’re going to rebuild.”
The team is trying to accelerate the rebuilding process by getting the new players acquainted with the team. Many of the players have participated in bonding events such as game watching parties, FIFA soccer nights, team dinners and big brother night, where older players take younger players under their wings.
“It really brings guys together off the field and we think that’ll make a difference on the field,” Jelinek said.
The team hopes their effort to gel happens fast because they have a very tough schedule, which includes games against in-state rivals Texas A&M, SMU, Texas State and Texas Tech.
The club struggled against its first opponent, Texas A&M, in a 1-0 loss. Texas had trouble maintaining possession and made mistakes, which Prewett credits to lack of cohesion.
“We’ve got some talent in that first group but they don’t necessarily understand how each of them plays yet. It’s going to take time,” Prewett said.
Although the club soccer team is going through growing pains, their goals haven’t changed: a national championship. The timing of Texas’ match against Texas A&M was unfortunate, as that game often determines the conference champion. However, Coach Prewett and the team know that as the season progresses they will be in the hunt to qualify for regionals and ultimately nationals.
Texas was able to rebound with a 6-2 victory over UTSA. The team will try to continue improving as they prepare for their game against SMU on Sunday, Sept. 22.