A 2022 Soccer Recap: Silver Linings Provide Optimism In Disappointing Seasons

Jared Darling, Sports Photographer

After the 2022 California Collegiate Athletic Association season, both California State University, East Bay’s soccer programs fell short of their ultimate goal as both the men’s and women’s programs were left on the outside looking in, regarding this year’s CCAA playoffs. 


The men’s program added another year to their playoff drought. Since the Pioneers joined the CCAA in 2009, the men’s team has missed the playoffs every season for 12 consecutive years, barring the 2020 pandemic season cancellations.


As for the women’s program, the team experienced a complete 180 from their 2021 success. The Pioneers found themselves at the bottom of the CCAA standings a year after their championship-winning season, going winless in their 11 CCAA matches with 10 losses and 1 tie. Senior Kayla Morales best described the 2022 season as a “rebuilding season” for the young women’s program. 


Despite the disappointing seasons that came before, both programs are gleaming with young talent. Freshman prospects Michael Rossi and Morgan Pearson represent an optimistic future for the Pioneers, proving themselves in their first year by impressing audiences with their potential and receiving valuable time on the field. 


As a starter for all 17 games this season, Pearson quickly became the Pioneers’ primary offensive weapon after scoring her first career goal for the women’s team just 15 minutes into their first game. Pearson completed the season as the team leader in almost every offensive stat, including goals, points, and shots on goal, and finished by tying for the team lead in game-winning goals. 


After a successful first season for CSUEB, which earned her a spot on the All-CCAA Second Team, Pearson is grateful for the opportunity and accolades, but still has her eyes set on a successful 2023 campaign: “I acknowledge those who helped me gain such positive goals in my first year as a Pioneer. With that being said, I look forward to having a greater challenge next year, while eclipsing my statistics achieved in 2022.”


Much like Pearson, Rossi became a key offensive player for the men’s program in his first season. He appeared in all 18 games and started in 17, taking the team lead for the most shots on goal and scoring two goals by the end of the season. Although the team missed the playoffs, Rossi still found this first season and the opportunity to test his skills incredibly valuable. “It was super important for me to get playing time in such competitive games toward the end of the season. It was important for my development as a player and challenged me to push harder to play a meaningful role on the team,” Rossi reflected.


Developing confidence and building up young talent will be key for both programs to get back to their ultimate goal to qualify for future playoffs. Men’s captains Aaron Farnan and Drew Gibbons both felt that staying in the playoff hunt in the final weeks of the season was invaluable for team spirit. 


It was huge for us to be playing in those games towards the end of the season that mattered,” said Farnan, noting that the team did not experience the usual end-of-season malaise this time around. “To be competitive in our games and to make a run, really helped team morale and helped us enjoy the season as much as possible,” Farnan added.


Gibbons echoed these sentiments by addressing the benefit of playing meaningful games, as it will help the program in the long run. “Our goal at the start of the year was to make the playoffs, which we, unfortunately, did not achieve, however having every game this year be a meaningful game was big for us, to give our freshmen and team, in general, the experience needed to continue to be a successful program,” Gibbons commented.


Both Farnan and Gibbons believe that the team is just a few adjustments away from making the playoffs next season. Gibbons noted that consistency might be the solution to their playoff drought: “Next year we will need to find a bit more consistency and clean up some mistakes especially on set pieces to make sure every goal we concede is an earned one. Especially in this tight of a conference every goal matters.” 


Farnan believes that the quest for the playoffs begins with a strong spring. “I think a big thing for this team moving forward and making a push for the playoffs next year, is just making sure we have a good spring and get everybody on the same page in terms of our goals and the work we’re going to put in to achieve them. This team is only going to keep improving but a lot of work is going to be put in to keep moving forward,” expressed Farnan.


As far as the women’s team goes, Senior Kayla Morales believes that this year’s struggles will lead the team back to the playoffs, optimistically adding, “I am confident that this team will do great things.” Morales recalled a change in attitude this past season, stating, “By the end of the season you could tell some players were getting more confident and comfortable. We were scoring more and it felt like we were all connecting. I’m excited to see how well they do next year.” 


Senior Kelekolio Mateo Jr shared Morales’ excitement, expressing his pride in being a part of the men’s program. “I’m most proud about the improvement and progress we’ve made through this season as a team. Every single player on this team, at the beginning of the season, bought into the vision and culture which helped create a strong bond between all of us throughout the season,” he added. 


Before graduating, seniors Mateo Jr. and Morales aim to help the younger hopefuls succeed with peer guidance. For the results to manifest during the 2023 season, Mateo Jr’s advises the players to “continue to believe in the program, coaching staff, and each other,” by committing to hard work “in the off-season, on the field, and in the gym.” 


Instead of emphasizing individual determination, Morales encouraged the team to cherish the moments that they have together on the field. “Stick together,” she urged and encouraged players to acknowledge that, “the lows will be lows but the highs will be highs. The 4 years you have to play will go by faster than you think so enjoy it all and make the most out of everything.” 


Considering both teams will have a majority of their core “starters” return next season, now is the perfect time for the men’s program to end their playoff drought and the women’s program to get back to the same level of success they experienced in 2021. With optimism running high on all fronts, it seems like a comeback is to be expected from the Pioneers upon their return to the field in 2023.