Their coach is practically in hiding. His face has never been redder. Sheepish? Al Mistri, Cal State Fullerton men's soccer coach, is a walking definition of the word this week.
Two weeks ago, the Titans were ranked as high as third nationally. But now they have lost three of five, and during a 4-3 loss on Friday to Loyola Marymount, they played all but two minutes of the second half with 10 players instead of the required 11.
What happened? Well . . .
"You've got to retain some sense of humor, but right now, I'm having a hard time with this," Mistri said. "So take any potshots you want. Nothing is as brutal as fact."
The Titans were using the Loyola Marymount game as a tune-up for their Mountain Sports Soccer Federation opener Sunday against San Diego State. Not wanting to burn out his players, Mistri decided to rest four of his starters for the entire first half and then four others during the second half.
"I instructed the four starters on the bench to go in (after halftime) and somehow, word didn't get down to the fourth guy," Mistri said. "So four came out and only three went in."
No one noticed the Titans only had 10 men on the field until there were only about two minutes to play. Not Mistri, not goalkeeper Mike Ammann, not any other players. Nobody.
"All of a sudden, with about two minutes left, somebody said, 'Coach, why are we playing with 10 people?' " Mistri said. "I said, 'What do you mean?' And sure enough, I realized I screwed up big time.
"In my coaching career, I've never felt so bad. I apologized to the team."
Well, nobody ever said coaches never make mistakes.
"Yeah, but this is a pretty stupid one," Mistri said. "I'm going to say that flat out. I cannot think of anything worse that can happen. It will be awhile before I get over that one."
Mistri, who doubles as the ticket manager for the Salsa of the American Professional Soccer League, said he was so upset that he couldn't even enjoy the sellout crowd in Titan Stadium for Saturday's APSL championship game.
"I worked so hard to help get a professional franchise here and everyone said it would be a long time before the Salsa had a sellout," Mistri said. "They had one, and I couldn't even enjoy it. . . .
"(The loss) was definitely my fault. I'm at the helm of the ship. It was just an amazing situation."
Some of the sting was taken out when, two days later, the Titans (8-3) defeated San Diego State, 1-0, to win their conference opener.
But when the rankings came out on Tuesday, they weren't kind. The Titans, ranked eighth nationally in the coaches' poll last week and 10th by Soccer America, have dropped out of each one.
Funny: While the soccer team was attempting to distinguish between 10 and 11 players, the women's gymnastics team was being honored for its smarts.
The Titan gymnasts earned the third-highest grade-point average, according to the 1993 Top 20 list compiled by the National Assn. of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women. Based on the 1992-93 academic year, the Titans' 3.38 cumulative GPA ranked behind only Yale (3.53) and Northeastern (3.46) and just ahead of Stanford (3.37).
"I am very proud of this team," Coach Lynn Rogers said. "They are good representatives of the university and they show what collegiate athletics is all about.
"Academics is a top priority for these student-athletes. They deserve a lot of credit, but our strong academics are a tribute to the professors on our campus and the personnel who gives us academic support within the athletic department."
Despite the deer mice/hantavirus scare in Orange County, cross-country Coach John Elders said the Big West championships, scheduled Oct. 30 at Carbon Canyon Park in Brea, are still on.
"There has been no evidence of the virus anywhere other than South County," Elders said. "We're not anticipating (moving the championships) at all unless there's a positive test. If there's any indication of that, of course we'd move the course."
The only current problem is that the Carbon Canyon course can't be used because the Army Corps of Engineers, while tracking the mice, have moved some dirt.
"The trail is impassable right now," Elders said. "But I anticipate the course being straightened out by the championships on Oct. 30."
Sophomore pitcher Jon Ward is one of 64 players who have been invited to the national fall trials for USA Baseball, which begins on Nov. 4 in Homestead, Fla. . . . The men's soccer team plays host to Cal State Northridge at 7 p.m. on Friday and UC Santa Barbara at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The women's soccer team plays host to Chico State at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and UCSB at noon on Sunday. The women's volleyball team is at New Mexico State on Thursday and at San Jose State on Saturday.