Intramural Co-ed Competitive Soccer. It’s strange to think that I’ve actually been anticipating this 2014 season ever since my first exposure to the league last year. Growing up in a third world Latino culture where every young boy is brainwashed to believe that they will lead their national team to the next FIFA World Cup, I can confidently say that soccer has always been a huge part of my life. I joined a team my freshman year with that same drive to represent Peruvian soccer to my best ability and bring glory to its name. After the first couple games, I realized just how unprepared I was to achieve such a dream. My classes conflicted with the game times, my team did not share my competitive vision and my “freshman 15” literally held me back from my peak performance. Now I made some great friendships through the team and had a blast playing each game and watching the finals, but I knew that next year would be different.

I started recruiting for intramurals early on, starting with my good friend Derek Kouns, who was the doubles ping pong partner I mentioned a few posts ago. He’s a solid defender and, with his helpful study sessions and late-night donut runs, easily became my co-captain. The rest of the team came together through the fall semester as I randomly brought up the idea to individuals who looked like they could kick a soccer ball. My main goal as a captain was to avoid becoming the annoying, ultra-competitive guy who only cared about winning. Obviously, I would like to someday hoist the Lancer Cup after a close final match, but that wasn’t why I joined intramurals. If I made someone on my team feel like they would rather be somewhere else, then I would have failed as a captain and friend. I like to play soccer and playing with others who are having a fun time makes it that much better.

After a captain’s meeting and receiving the Peruvian flag from Community Life, team Peru was ready to go. Our first game of the season was on Monday, and I was a bit nervous. Our team had practiced just once before the game and that was only with half of them. Derek had class, too, which left my defense lacking. I even showed up early just to find every other team that had a game at 3 p.m. already practicing. By kick off we had enough players to start, and I met two of them only minutes before. We were up against Ivory Coast, and, as I recall, they destroyed my team last year. Maybe this would be different.

And, surprisingly, it was completely different. In the first half, our team organized a strong defense and set up a few good through passes in the offense. Then early in the game, Cody Clark, our striker, took a throw in and threw it right at their keeper. The ball bounced off her finger tips and went right in the goal, followed by my shout of excitement. The ref quickly crushed my spirits when it was called a goal kick instead, and then Ivory Coast scored before half. Luckily for us, the call wasn’t final, and the head ref called the captains over at half time to discuss the call. According to the rules, it should have been a goal, and we were awarded the point which tied the game at 1-1. That psyched up the team for the next half, and it showed. Our offense turned up the pressure, and Austin Leonard, who I recruited simply because he wore Adidas sweat pants and an Arsenal FC jersey in the caf once, scored the deciding goal. Our defense held off the attack, but most of the credit goes to Taylor Parker for sure. She asked me if she could play goalie before I even knew her name, and she dominated. At one point it was a one-on-one situation between her and the opposing striker, and she showed no fear. I don’t think anyone else on our team would have committed to defending the goal at that point, but she accepted the shot and blocked it accordingly. MVP for sure.

Team Peru won the game 2-1, and we all felt excited about the season. I couldn’t have been more proud of my team. This could be the year…