Blisters start the doors of the CSUMB men’s football team – Monterey Herald

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MARINA – Just a corner kick to the left will be a renovated, state-of-the-art football stadium to call home by next season.

A sense of anticipation only fuels the fire of a skyrocketing men’s football schedule, as CSU Monterey Bay is one win away from matching its record-breaking start to the season.

For the second time since the Otters became a member of NCAA Division II 15 years ago, the program is undefeated in its first five games as the team prepares for its opener with California Collegiate Athletic Association.

“It’s the willingness to work as one,” said Adrian Rebollar-Cortes. “We are ready to do what the team needs. It’s part of the culture. It’s a great environment to win.

For a program that has never produced more than 11 wins in a season (2013), has never had back-to-back winning seasons, and has never made the playoffs, the Otters are oblivious to expectations.

On the heels of a nine-game winning season in 2019 – the COVID-19 pandemic has ended the 2020 season – the Otters have shown improvement in the winning column for three consecutive years.

“Integrated culture has been a process,” said Rebollar-Cortes. “It goes back to my first year. We got better every year. We are a versatile and selfless group. Everyone has joined.

CSUMB came through the gates this fall, having beaten five opponents 15-4 in a 4-0-1 start, with nine players scoring or assisting on one goal.

Among those is Rebollar-Cortes, a four-year-old holder, who has five goals and two assists, giving him 14 goals and 13 assists in his career, placing him 10th all-time on the list of Otters assists.

“We are proud to be one of the fittest teams in the conference,” said Rebollar-Cortes. “Teams have told me how difficult it is for us to play. We press. We have this grain. This is what we are emphasizing here.

That’s what head coach Graeme Jaap instilled when he took office in 2019, believing that the only thing he could control was the conditioning of his team and the pace of the game.

“For me the pressure on the ball makes sense,” said Jaap. “If you can throw the ball up the field, it’s easier to score a goal. When you press it makes teams uncomfortable and creates errors.

The promising start is proof that Jaap’s beliefs work with a set of unknowns, coming together to make the program relevant in the CCAA.

Yet, as Jaap pointed out, the Otters are not on a level playing field after the COVID-19 shutdown. Not only was the program inactive from competition for 18 months, it was unable to use its facilities for training.

“Some teams have played games, others have trained,” Jaap said. “We couldn’t do either. Some of our players did not have access to an installation. As a result, some came out a bit slow.

A committee rating approach this fall is no coincidence. Walmer Martinez’s graduation and 13 goals and 33 points left a void in the lineup.

Martinez, who played for the El Salvador national team this summer, is currently in the United Soccer League with Hartford Athletic. Next year, the refurbished Otters stadium will host USL’s Monterey Bay FC.

“It’s hard to replace a talent like Walmer Martinez,” Jaap said. “Versatility is the strength of this team. The players are ready to play out of position, to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. ”

That disinterest begins with Rebollar-Cortes, who produced eight assists in 2019. The Watsonville native believes being taken out of the game for 18 months has made the desire of those back even greater.

“The pandemic has been more of an eye opener,” Rebollar-Cortes said. “We’re grateful to just play the game. I don’t see it as a setback. Lots of players have kept their physical shape and kept their skills sharp. ”

It’s hard to argue with the results, as the Otters ‘aggressive approach saw them limit the teams’ scoring options, having outscored their opponents 82-22 in their electric start.

“I’m happy with the way it’s gone so far,” Jaap said. “The guys work really hard. We create opportunities for ourselves, which is always a good thing. Obviously, scoring is the hardest thing to do in football.

While the Otters’ roster includes 13 freshmen, one of the leftovers is forward Pedro Hernandez, who has three goals and an assist this year – having recorded just the third hat trick of the program in 2019.

Former North Monterey County High star George Aquino is the heart of the defense, having had starts in each of his first two seasons for the Otters.

“Georgie is a big part of our defense,” Jaap said. “He worked extremely hard during the pandemic on his own. His body has changed in terms of athleticism and improvement.

The addition of Soledad High graduate Alexis Sanchez helped solidify the Otters’ defense as the rookie landed a starting job, recording every minute but 11 playing in five starts.

Sanchez, who was the Gabilan Division Midfielder of the Year in 2018 for Soledad, has become a diamond in defense with his relentless pursuit to disrupt his opponents’ attacks.

“He won’t get your attention,” Jaap said, “but he’s tough. He is a man of high character and reliable. Alexis has been working really hard on COVID on his own. He took advantage of an opportunity.

The same goes for second-year defenseman Colin O’Mahony of Ireland, who after starting all of the last 16 games of 2019, has collected three assists in his first three starts this fall for CSUMB.

“There was some excitement about the new faces arriving,” Jaap said. “The survivals have seen the evolution of the program. They hold each other accountable. The camaraderie has been good.

Jaap knows adversity is on the horizon. The CCAA is one of the most in-depth Division II conferences in the country. The Otters have only had two winning conference seasons, the last eight years ago.

“There is a willingness from this group when asked to do something that they might not like,” Jaap said. “But you push for the team. This is what comes first. We are a humble and hungry group.


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