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College Division / Mitch Polin : Bakersfield Soccer Team Changes Losing Ways

The Columbia University football team attracted considerable attention when it put an end to its 44-game losing streak last week.

But the longest winless streak to fall by the wayside last week didn’t belong to Columbia.

It belonged to the Cal State Bakersfield men’s soccer team, which had not won a game in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. since the Roadrunners started competing in the conference in 1979.

Until last week, Bakersfield’s record in CCAA play was 0-87-2. Technically, the Roadrunners had one previous conference victory in 1982, when Cal State Los Angeles had to forfeit a 6-1 win because of an ineligible player.

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Bakersfield, however, had never won a CCAA game on the field.

Then the Roadrunners defeated Chapman, 2-1, in their conference opener last Tuesday in Bakersfield on a goal by junior forward Aaron Ellis with 1 minute 20 seconds remaining.

It was not quite the shot heard ‘round the world, but it certainly represented a turning point in Bakersfield’s soccer program.

“All the newspapers and TV stations (in Bakersfield) were out in force, and I don’t think anything could have been timed more to perfection,” Bakersfield Coach Simon Tobin said.

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Perhaps lost in the excitement of the win over Chapman was the fact that the Roadrunners have been pretty good all season.

After defeating Chapman, Bakersfield beat Cal Poly Pomona on Saturday, 2-1, running its CCAA record to 2-0 and its overall mark to 10-0-1.

That is quite a turnaround for a team that was 4-16-1 overall and 0-9-1 in the CCAA in 1987.

The route to Bakersfield’s success was mapped out when Tobin, a former semipro player from London arrived as coach before last season.

“We didn’t really have the talent when I came here last year,” Tobin said. “We did manage to get a tie (in the CCAA), but I didn’t really even expect that.”

Adding to Tobin’s frustration was being part of an athletic department that was used to churning out winning teams. Bakersfield won National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division II titles in men’s swimming and women’s softball last season, as well as a CCAA championship in men’s basketball and the Pacific 10 Conference title in wrestling.

“When I first came here, the athletes had been superb here,” he said. “The only thing that hadn’t been good was soccer, which was unfortunate, because they have some fine soccer in the community. But the first thing I had tried to do was make it as professional as possible.”

Tobin, 27, said he was more than satisfied with his team’s effort last season, despite the record. Maybe that was why Tobin was selected as CCAA coach of the year last season.

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“Our guys weren’t really up to standards, but they still played hard every game,” he said. “They set the standard for this year.”

With the help of several recruits, this year’s model is definitely up to standards.

The biggest impact has been made by another Englishman, sophomore midfielder Phil Gallagher, who has a team-leading 8 goals and 5 assists after playing for a college in London as a freshman.

“Even when he’s not scoring, he makes a big difference by being out there,” Tobin said.

Two other English imports are freshman midfielder Dave Blakely and sophomore forward Jimmy Dowdall. There also are freshman fullback Richie Chavez from Bakersfield as well as Ellis, from San Diego, who has 8 goals and 2 assists.

“There’s definitely a lot more talent here than there has been in the past,” Tobin said. “I’ve only got one guy remaining from the last coach. You do get used to losing, but most of the guys I’ve recruited are coming from winning programs.”

Tobin said that even with the new supply of talent, he never could have predicted the team’s impressive start.

“I looked at our schedule and thought we had a few games that we could win, but I never thought we would go into the conference undefeated,” he said.

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Tobin did think that the Roadrunners would win a conference game this season, though.

“I knew that if we didn’t win that one (against Chapman), we could win another conference game,” he said. “But there’s always that feeling of wanting to win that first one.”

Bakersfield’s early success apparently hasn’t made an impact on the NCAA Division II top 20 selection committee, because the Roadrunners are still unranked. But Tobin thinks his team is worthy of a national ranking.

“We haven’t been beaten, and I know a lot of people will say, ‘Well, you haven’t played anyone,’ ” Tobin said. “But I think we deserve a top 20 ranking. We had 6 shutouts in a row in the preseason, and there aren’t many teams around that can do that against any opponents.”

There is also the possibility of a CCAA title, although you will not catch Tobin looking that far ahead. Tobin says the only game he is thinking about is a matchup against defending conference champion Cal State Northridge on Wednesday in Bakersfield.

Considering his team’s past, Tobin says, it is never safe to look past the next game.

You might say that the Cal State Los Angeles men’s basketball team is eager to start its season.

That’s why the Golden Eagles are holding their first practice at the stroke of midnight Saturday--the earliest that NCAA teams are allowed to practice for the 1988-89 season.

The Golden Eagles held a similar practice last year, only to finish the season 2-23 overall and 0-14 in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn.

But their second-year coach, Henry Dyer, says he wants to make the midnight practice a tradition at the school.

“It’s something we can all look forward to, and one day maybe we can have two or three thousand fans come out and watch us,” he said.

That may be overly optimistic, considering that only a few fans watched the midnight practice last year.

But when your team has struggled, as the Golden Eagles did last season, there is plenty of room for optimism, Dyer said.

College Division Notes

The Biola women’s volleyball team was efficient in defeating Point Loma Nazarene in 3 games last week. In the second game of the match, the Eagles needed only 19 serves to score a 15-4 win. Biola is ranked No. 3--its highest rating ever--with a 17-2 record and is 8-0 in District III play in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The California Collegiate Athletic Assn. dominates the latest NCAA Division II poll in men’s cross-country. Cal State L.A. is No. 5, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is No. 6, Cal Poly Pomona is No. 9 and UC Riverside is No. 10. Cal State L.A. finished seventh against top Division I teams in the Stanford Invitational 2 weeks ago. . . . Occidental’s football team, which was ranked No. 5 in NCAA Division III last week, will try for its fourth win in a row when it plays host to Pomona-Pitzer (0-3) Saturday night. The only loss for Occidental (3-1) was against Azusa Pacific in its season opener, 17-13.

Claremont-Mudd, which tied for first with Occidental in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in football last year, is off to a surprising 0-4 start after its 34-31 loss to Trinity of Texas on Saturday. . . . After improving its record to 5-1 with a 24-21 win over Cal Lutheran last week, the Cal State Northridge football team may face its toughest opponent of the season when it plays host to Portland State (3-2-1) Saturday night in a Western Football Conference game. Portland State, which finished second in NCAA Division II last season, is 2-0 in the WFC, and Northridge is 1-1.


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