Soccer club finds success

The UNA soccer club is only in its third year as a program, but has managed to take off with a 3-1 start to the 2016 season.

The Lions opened the season with a three-game win streak against Memphis, Ole Miss and Troy. The one loss came against Auburn, which was a big step forward from previous seasons, said senior center midfielder José Betancourt.

“We lost 1-0. In the past we’ve lost to them like 6-0, 7-0,” Betancourt said. “We stepped it up.”

UNA is the smallest school in the Gulf Coast Division, which includes clubs such as Auburn and Mississippi State. The club plays mostly Division I schools. When asked his opinion on the situation, Betancourt said it only fueled the team to play harder.

“We want to prove a point that even though we’re small, we can keep up with them,” Betancourt said.

Playing against clubs from larger schools is a huge motivation tool for the team, said senior midfielder Brandon Brown.

“Having us go out and beat these large, 30,000-plus schools is really awesome,” Brown said. “They do have a lot of funding, so it’s good for our guys to get together to go out and beat those guys,” Brown said.

Despite UNA’s winning start, the team must take things one game at a time, said UNA head coach Drake Somers.

“I’m very strict with punctuality, with time getting here, whether they take the practice serious, whether they’re focused, whether they’re just lolly-gagging or not,” Somers said. “If I see that I get on their behind. They know they can’t get too far ahead of themselves either.”

UNA has an official women’s soccer team, but is lacking a men’s program. Brown said he believes if the school were to start an official men’s soccer team as opposed to just the club team, it would give the school an advantage over the in-state schools that do not have soccer teams.

“If UNA were to get an NCAA team before all the other Alabama Southeastern Conference schools and Mississippi SEC schools, I think it’d be a good boost in enrollment and revenue sells. Because (neither Alabama nor Auburn) have NCAA teams.” Brown said. “Mississippi, is the same way so I think it’d be awesome to see us go first in that category.”

Even though the UNA soccer club is not an official UNA athletics sport, Somers says that they still manage to draw a fairly large crowd at home games and away games.

“We get a good turnout during games when it’s home,” Somer said. “Even this last game at Auburn we had a big group of fans that came out there. It’s growing. It’s getting a lot bigger than what it was last year.”

UNA’s next home game is against Southern Mississippi Oct. 15 at North Florence Fields on Chisholm Road.