At the beginning of this year, I had never written a sports story. My interest in organized sports had dropped off when I burnt out after my serious high school football career. When I was assigned a sports beat and more specifically soccer, I had mixed feelings.

I covered football, volleyball and soccer games and began to learn sports interviewing techniques, statistic analysis and how to be comfortable in the press box with the other “real” journalists.

Men’s soccer quickly and surprisingly became my favorite. I’d played soccer until I was 14 and then dropped it for what I thought was more glorious: high school football.  I hadn’t watched a competitive live soccer game since then.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was to watch the games. The Mustangs were quite competitive, the atmosphere, especially at the two Santa Barbara games, was dynamic and the flow of the game was something I appreciated after the start-and-stop games of football.

The quarter has been busy for me, and before I knew it, I was covering the Big West Conference semifinal playoff game between the Mustangs and the UC Irvine Anteaters.

The Anteaters beat Poly earlier in the year 2-1 and came out looking like it. Within the first couple of minutes, Irving Garcia, called by Mustangs head coach Paul Holocher, as “one of the best players in the west, if not the country,” lobbed a pass downfield to forward Carlos Aguilar, who headed it in right over Poly keeper Patrick McLain’s hands.

Poly was battling back the rest of the game. They certainly did not look like the team that had dominated UC Riverside the week before and were struggling to get shots on the goal. By the end of the game Poly had only taken six shots on goal compared with Irvine’s 21.

When Aguilar sunk a sudden death penalty kick in second overtime the Mustangs’ soccer season abruptly ended. The seniors on the team looked crestfallen, confused and almost hurt, as does any athlete after a major loss, especially when it is the last of a career.

For me, approaching these athletes, these faces, was a bit of an ordeal. How do you get someone to talk when they most obviously do not want to? Well, if you’re on deadline, you just have to. I told them they had a good season and “sorry about your loss” and then delved into the questions like a normal interview. Slowly, each one warmed up, came out of their funk and spoke clearly about the game. It seemed talking about the loss and the finality of the season made them feel better.

It is always hard to see your team out for the season and this was no exception. The season renewed my interest in organized sports and honed my interviewing and deadline-writing skills. Luckily, basketball season is already in swing. See you in Mott Gym.

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