Futbol club approaches end of season improved

UNA’s Chris Pate rears back for a kick against the University of Alabama Oct. 11 in Florence. The Lions are 3-4 and will face Troy Oct. 24 to finish the season.

The club soccer team’s season is winding down with one match left to play before the year is over.

The club, known as the UNA futbol club, is a member of the NIRSA (National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association) Gulf Coast Conference. The team is 3-4 coming off a 2-1 road loss to Mississippi State Oct. 18.

The Lions started the season 1-1 with two road games, defeating Southern Mississippi 5-1 and losing to Emory 3-0.

The next two matches for UNA were at home, dominating Singing River FC 7-0 Sept. 19. The team followed with a 3-0 win against Memphis the next weekend to improve to 3-1.

“Our biggest game was against Memphis at home,” said UNA FC President Brandon Brown. “We lost the last two (matches) to them but won this time. We kept possession very well.”

Brown said the team has improved, especially after going 1-5 last season.

“This season has been a success,” he said. “Year after year, our defense has improved tremendously. We could not hang with the big schools like Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State, but now we can.”

The Lions received losses from in-state clubs Auburn and Alabama. The Lions fell 4-0 to Auburn Oct. 4 and loss to Alabama 3-0.

Brown said team unity and playing opponents outside the conference strengthens the team as a whole.

“Half of the team (this year) were returners, so that improved our team chemistry,” he said. “We are one of the only Division II teams in the league and definitely the smallest school in the Southeast.”

Despite the success of the team, The Lions overcame numerous obstacles throughout the season, according to UNA FC Vice President Jose Betancourt.

“I think the biggest challenge we faced is working around everyone’s schedules in order to get practices in,” Betancourt said. “People had night classes, and it was a challenge to get everyone to practice.”

Just like other student organizations on campus, money is a concern for the club. It travels like the scholarship athletic teams and needs money for equipment and uniforms.

“I think since we are a small organization and just getting started, it was hard to get funding for our team,” Betancourt said.

Center back Chris Pate said the team is improving, despite the youth of its program.

“I would definitely describe this season as a successful one,” he said. “We came up short in a few of our region games, but this is only our second year. The gap between our club and some of the bigger teams has clearly been shortened.”

Brown said he thinks the success of the club team increased the popularity of soccer around campus.

“There are around 35 players in the club at this time,” he said. “This has been one of our greatest achievements because it is allowing us to grow the soccer community at UNA.”

UNA FC will plays its final match of the season Oct. 24 against Troy.