Despite ending its men’s soccer program back in 2003, Fresno State has kept the game alive through club sports by way of Fresno State FC.
The club consists of 25 members who join via tryouts every year, get a chance to play and represent their school in the West Coast Soccer Association.
Many of the club’s members already have soccer experience and wanted the opportunity to play collegiately.
Noel Ocegueda, a senior, has been a part of the club since he first came to Fresno State four years ago.
“Well, I assume that I’ve been kicking since I was in the womb,” Ocegueda said. “Ever since I was a kid, my dad ingrained it in my mind to play soccer, and I didn’t stop.”
Ocegueda said that he has enjoyed his experience with the club. His role on the team during games is to play forward, but he also drops down to central midfielder for his ability to provide balls for the attack.
He primarily came to Fresno State for school and was disappointed that it doesn’t have a collegiate-level soccer program, but his interest in the sport resurfaced when he found out the school had club soccer.
“I really didn’t like the fact that the school didn’t have an actual team,” Ocegueda said talking about his younger self. “I wanted to play, and you find out once you are in school there’s no team. You kind of don’t know where to go from there.”
The major reason that Fresno State does not have a soccer program and will not have one anytime soon is because of the Title IX law, which is a 1972 federal statute that prohibits discrimination based on gender in education, sports and other programs that receive federal financial assistance. There were more teams for men’s sports than women’s.
For Ocegueda, soccer was an emotional outlet, helping him during most of his life and is more than just something to do for fun.
“It’s my everything in the sense that when I need someone to talk to, I need something to kick,” Ocegueda said. “If I need to relieve stress, I kick the ball. If I’m feeling down, I just kick the ball. It’s my go to.”
Uriel Espinoza, a junior and teammate of Ocegueda’s, has been a part of the club for three years.
Since beginning play at the age of 8, Espinoza will be the first to admit that the competition gets harder the older you get.
“It’s been good. I mean, when I first started I really didn’t get much playing time because when I first tried out there were about 200 kids,” Espinoza said. “My second year, I got more playing time and eventually became a starter.”
In his first year at the club, Espinoza played as winger and midfielder on the left side of the pitch, before moving to left-sided defender in his sophomore year and has played there ever since.
Espinoza believes that the school should have an actual men’s soccer program and recommends that the program start off fresh and hold tryouts for players.
Espinoza, just like Ocegueda, uses soccer therapeutically to help him deal with life.
“I’ve loved to play soccer since I was small. For me, it’s fun,” Espinoza said. “It’s a good way to relieve stress, like from school. Whenever I need to relieve stress, I play soccer to get my mind off things.”
Marcus Bunde, student and teacher’s assistant, is surprised that a school the size of Fresno State can’t resolve the issue of missing sports programs.
“I guess it is a little unfair because there’s a lot of people that come from the Valley who don’t get that opportunity,” Bunde said. “I would agree that it’s a little unfair just for the people who only have the opportunity to come here.”
Bunde said that if it was up to people like Ocegueda and Espinoza, he would try to do something to create change.