SAN MARCOS — The CIA is the acronym for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Believe it or not, it’s also the ethos for the California State-San Marcos men’s soccer team.
Short for communication, intensity and attitude, Coach Ron Pulvers said in a pre-game interview that he attributes CIA to the team’s historic first ever ranking inside the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division-II top 25. Off to a 6-0 start, the team was one of just 16 teams to achieve such a feat to date when it got into the top 25 for the first time on Sept. 18 at the number 19 slot. The Cougars lost their first game of the season on Sept. 21 to the University of California-San Diego Tritons in an away match.
Pulvers told The Coast News in a post-game interview that though they lost the game, he saw it as an opportunity for his team to grow and learn, while also giving a nod to the effective play of the UCSD squad. The Cougars came back from a 2-0 deficit in that game against the Tritons in the last 12 minutes of the 90-minute affair against the fellow top 25 opponent, scoring two goals to tie things up and send it into overtime. But just a few minutes into the sudden death overtime, the Tritons scored, ending the game once and for all.
“To be honest, I’m excited to see how these guys are going to respond,” Pulvers said. “It’s easy to respond favorably when you’re 6-0 and you get the result you’re looking for.”
Beating back adversity and coming from behind in games has, to date in the season, been a staple of the CSU-San Marcos squad. But Pulvers said after the game against UCSD that he wants his team to practice getting off to better starts in games.
“The positives are that we came back from being down 2-0 and fought our way back into it, but we can’t concede goals,” said Pulvers. “We’ve been conceding a goal and coming back 1-0 down, but with 2-0 down, that’s a bigger hill to climb. We spent a lot of energy trying to get back to even terms in the game, and as a result, we lost a lot of our legs.”
During a pre-game interview before the match against the Tritons, Pulvers also said that — though the team is proud of the historic premier ranking inside the top 25 — it is a long season and he has instructed his players to take things one day at a time.
“It’s always nice to get the recognition and I’m not going to make light of how that plays a role, but I told the guys the other day during training that this is the last time we’re going to talk about this as a group,” Pulvers said. “All it means is we’ve won six games and we’ve won the day in each of those six games and today is a new day.”
In fact, Pulvers said that he thinks that the top 25 ranking has put the Cougars on the map as a team that others now will put their best feet forward against. Put another way, the team has a target on its back, which serves as fuel to the fire for them.
“I think it’s super humbling to be given the vote in the national rankings, but at the end of the day, it’s just that: a ranking,” said Robbie Dirks, a senior center defenseman for the Cougars. “We have to focus on winning the day and that starts on Monday, when we focus on training (at practice).”
Likewise, junior goalkeeper Justin Tesar downplayed looking forward to any given game throughout the rest of the season — including the one which was then-forthcoming against UCSD — because the fight which goes into every game matters equally.
“There’re no games that are worth nothing and there’re no games which are worth more,” Tesar said. “Every game is worth the same no matter what stage of the season you’re in. Our goal for the season is to go into every game with a set of non-negotiables which we perform every time and the goal is to perform them and to get the result we want through those non-negotiables.”
Home games next
These “non-negotiables,” Pulvers explained, are intangible things which need to happen to achieve success as a team. And coming full circle, those are what the CIA is for the team in a nutshell, a foundation upon which the team got into and hopes to stay in the top 25 rankings.
“Mostly at the end of the day, what keeps us going are each other,” said Josh Mendez, a freshman forward for the Cougars. “Throughout every practice and every game, everyone comes with the same mentality of giving 100 percent.”
The Cougars will next play a two game home stand in San Marcos at The Cage on Sept. 28 and September 30. They will play against Humboldt State and Sonoma State, respectively. After its loss to UCSD, the Cougars have slipped from 19 to 23 in the top 25 rankings.