Men’s Soccer Plays at High Level
When you see them in action, you can just tell. The Arkansas men’s club soccer team plays at the highest competitive level offered by the university. The team-oriented style of play brings back recent memories of what team members were familiar with growing up playing soccer.
Most of the players on the team have played on club select teams and their high school teams – enough to get valuable experience to play at a higher level. They weren’t going to let attending college keep them from continuing their personal soccer legacies.
“There are some men that come here who weren’t ready to quit soccer and didn’t want to play at a small school, so it still gives us the chance to play competitively but still have fun,” said junior Shawn Hohendorf, the team president. “There is structure to it, and everyone wants to be here.”
While most played in high school, some of the team members played at other schools and transferred to Arkansas, where they were able to find solace in the club team style. To have a few players who have played elsewhere gives the club even more credibility.
“We have a couple collegiate players who played either NAIA or Division III schools. One of them played for the Ozarks. Our goalie Weston Clegg was also a collegiate player for one year,” sophomore Christian Buechel said.
Club soccer started at Arkansas in 2006 by the now-head coach David Yanniello. The team plays in the Oklahoma Club Collegiate Soccer League, where they play regional schools such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa. The teams with the most wins from the OCCSL advance to the NIRSA Regionals, where they would play teams from their region, IV, which is made up of teams from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Nebraska.
Last fall, the team finished third in the OCCSL, which was good enough to advance to regionals in Columbia, Mo. The regionals this season start Oct. 26 and nationals follow on Nov. 15, where Hohendorf and the team expect to be this year.
“The Oklahoma league is in the spring too, and we are planning on playing in it this year depending on funds for travel,” Hohendorf said.
This year, the team is trying new ways to gain awareness around campus. They are hosting a fund raiser at the Chick-fil-a Oct. 17 on Martin Luther King Boulevard to help team members lessen the costs of dues for traveling and also get the word out about the team.
“In the past we really haven’t done much, but this year club sports is really pushing for social media. We use Facebook and we have a Twitter,” Hohendorf said. “On the Fridays before home games we will pass out about 100 flyers on the corner of Dickson and McElroy to get people to come out.”
The competitiveness of the club has progressed since its inauguration. Around 80 students attend the three-day tryouts for the team the first week of school. The second day they try to cut that number in half, and by the third day the team has selected its 18-member travel team, along with around 10 other players who are on the practice squad.
The team practices two nights, two hours per week, and has games every weekend in the fall. The players caravan to the away games and come back to Fayetteville after the game ends, unless they are competing in regionals or nationals.
In those cases, players stay overnight, some of the elements the members remember from when they were on club teams in high school.
“A lot of the kids played club soccer – Missouri and Texas kids who played club soccer around there,” Buechel said.