A year ago, the best men’s soccer player at Chapman University wasn’t even on the team.
Chapman was supposed to be an academic pit stop for Eddie Soto, a first-year player with Division I talent. The idea was to transfer to Southern Methodist and a soccer scholarship after his grades improved.
But Soto wasn’t able to meet SMU’s requirements and decided to play for Chapman this year rather than sit out another season. That decision made Chapman Coach Gregg Murphy extremely happy.
“He’s a tremendous player in tough situations,” Murphy said. “His touch on the ball is incredible. In front of the goal, he’s just deadly.”
Soto hasn’t missed many chances to score this season. He leads the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. with 41 points (16 goals, nine assists) while helping Chapman move out of last place for the first time in three seasons.
Chapman, which stopped offering soccer scholarships in 1989 due to budgetary restraints, doesn’t usually get players with credentials such as Soto’s.
A top club player whose team--the North Huntington Beach Untouchables--won the 19-and-under national championship this past summer, Soto also was a standout at Cerritos High. During his senior season, he had 27 goals and 22 assists and led Cerritos to the Southern Section Division 3-A title game before losing to El Toro.
He also played for the U.S. national under-20 team and was recruited by UCLA, where his Cerritos teammate and friend Jorge Salcedo is now a starter.
Soto had hoped to play for UCLA but when his grades and SAT scores didn’t measure up, his parents decided they would pay his way to Chapman so he could improve his grades. The family was familiar with Chapman because Soto’s older brother, Fabrizio, attended the school on a soccer scholarship during the mid-1980s.
Soto said at first it was hard to adjust to merely attending classes while his friend Salcedo played for UCLA’s national championship team. But he got used to the idea and thought it would pay off with a scholarship to SMU.
However, this past summer he wasn’t able to pass one of the two classes he needed to be accepted by SMU. Soto said the trips to Colorado and Nebraska with the Untouchables for club championships hurt his grades.
“It was a big decision,” Soto said. “I thought things would work out, but the teacher couldn’t handle it. I guess he didn’t approve.
“He said summer school is for school and not for traveling.”
Soto has enjoyed the experience at Chapman and has been impressed by the level of competition he’s facing, “but then again I would love to play Division I.”
He also would like to take the financial burden off his family--Chapman costs nearly $20,000 for tuition, room and board a year--and still hopes to be able to transfer to SMU.
Although Murphy says he would like to have Soto for three more seasons, he won’t stand in the way.
“He’s definitely a Division I-caliber player,” Murphy said. “I’ll do anything possible to get him where he wants to go. If that doesn’t work out for him then we’ve got a good Division II program here and he would help us out.”
Add Panthers: Chapman finishes its men’s soccer season Friday with a game against Cal State San Bernardino, which was in second place in the CCAA before Wednesday’s games. The Panthers are 6-9-3, 2-5-2 in the conference. Last season--Murphy’s first as men’s coach--they were 2-15-1, 0-8.
“That’s a big turnaround,” Murphy said. “That’s a great accomplishment for Chapman soccer. It’s just a step closer to doing what we want to do next year, which is possibly winning it all--win the conference.”
In its most crucial week of the season, the Chapman women’s volleyball team again finds itself at less than full strength. But Coach Mary Cahill has reason to feel encouraged.
With middle blocker Rena Strange and outside hitter Jennifer Lander on the bench because of back problems Tuesday, the Panthers still forced Cal State Bakersfield, ranked third nationally in the poll released Wednesday, to play a full five games.
No. 19 Chapman (18-10, 6-2) needs to upset a highly ranked team or two to earn an NCAA playoff spot, and Cahill hopes that coming so close against Bakersfield will make her team believe it can be done even shorthanded.
“I hope it showed them that we can play with some of the top teams,” Cahill said.
Cahill’s theory will be tested Friday and Saturday at the Air Force Premier Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colo. The tournament features 25 teams, including 16 ranked in the top 20 and nine of the top 10. The Panthers, who might have limited use of Strange and Lander, are in a pool with Air Force and No. 5 North Dakota State.
“I’m not really looking to win it,” Cahill said. “If we play an unranked team, we’ve got to win and we’d like to upset a ranked team.”
College Division Notes
Becky Pines wasn’t able to file an official protest after Southern California College’s loss to Christ College Irvine in a Golden State Athletic Conference women’s volleyball game last week, because she didn’t officially protest immediately at the point of contention. Leading, 14-12, in the first game, CCI was awarded the game when an official ruled that SCC setter Julie Jones had come from the back row to make a block. Pines, who said Jones started the point on the front row, learned what she should have done to prove her point. “I would have had to call a time out to go talk to the official,” Pines said. “Now if I ever have to protest again, I know the legalities of it.” . . . CCI’s slim hopes to make the playoffs in women’s volleyball ended last weekend. The Eagles lost to Westmont in three games Friday and then lost to The Master’s College in five games Saturday.