By Jordan Stepp. Cal Athletic Communications
BERKELEY – The No. 7 California Golden Bears men’s soccer program opened camp on Wednesday with an early morning session, as the 2014 season approaches. The Bears begin preparation for the new campaign on a positive note, with a lot of familiar faces from the team that reached the 2013 NCAA Quarterfinals, but also have an injection of youth into their talented side.
“Today was excellent,” head coach Kevin Grimes said following training on Wednesday morning. “We’ve got nine new players that are all extremely talented and at some point they are going to contribute heavily to this program, whether it’s this year or in the very near future. The seniors looked great, it was extremely competitive and we had a fantastic start this morning.”
Wednesday’s early morning practice at Golden Bear Field was the culmination of a long offseason for the returning team members have been itching to get back on the field. The training session saw a familiar theme, which is the extremely strong work ethic and professional atmosphere that the team exudes. Right from the jump, the Golden Bears got after it, with a high level of competition. The blue team took the mini-game competition, with freshman defender Joshua Morton scoring 12 times over the four games of 2-v-2.
“I think the team looks good, and getting back here (to Golden Bear) for training and it’s good to get a start to what is hopefully a successful season,” senior midfielder and co-captain Seth Casiple said. “The new group is learning and they are learning very quickly, which is positive. It’s obviously nice to have experience, which we have, but we also have a lot of talent with the new guys and it is fun to see that naivety that some of the new guys have. It’s a very good dynamic with this group, which is healthy and we are already starting to grow closer.”
Among the several new faces in Berkeley this year is sophomore defender Trevor Haberkorn. The former Furman Paladin appeared in all 18 games last year as a true freshman at center back and garnered honors as a member of the 2013 Top Drawer Soccer Freshman Best XI, was named second team All-Southern Conference and also was a member of the Southern Conference All-Freshman team. His first official practice as a Golden Bear did not disappoint.
“It was awesome, very intense and it was great to finally get a practice with the coaches and the group. Everyone was really excited being out here and really getting a real session in. It’s only going to get better as we continue, which I really look forward to and I consider myself very lucky to have this opportunity. We are always together as a team, and there is already great camaraderie and you couldn’t ask for a better squad to go day-to-day with to work hard and hopefully do just as well or better than we did last year.”
Following a couple of days of work in Berkeley, Cal is headed to Southern California for some bonding and training, as well as a scrimmage against the UC Irvine Anteaters. Though the results are not paramount at this point in the preseason, UCI serves as a great early barometer for the Bears. The Anteaters, like the Bears, also fell to the Maryland Terrapins in the tournament, in the third round. The Bears then return home to host a pair of scrimmages against San Francisco (Aug. 20) and Cal Poly (Aug. 23).
Once the preseason concludes, the Bears head across the country to open the 2014 season against the No. 22 North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday, Aug. 29. The Heels, and Cal’s second opponent of the season, No. 11 Wake Forest, are two more teams that competed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament giving the opening matches of the season a tournament-level feel.
After their cross-country jaunt to North Carolina, the Bears return home to Edwards Stadium to host their home opener on Friday, Sept. 12 against Cleveland State at 1 p.m. PT. They then appear for the first of 10 times on the Pac-12 Network on Sunday, Aug. 14 against Gonzaga.
There is a new ticketing policy for the 2014 home season, as all Cal students with a valid identification card will again gain admittance for free, as will youth under the age of two and children aged 2-17 for all Friday home games, while they will be charged $5 for all non-Friday matches. Seniors (65+) will be charged $5, while all other adults will be $10 for all matches. More information on ticketing for the 2014 season is available here.