Slugfest Levels the Playing Field

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Instead of competing on the field this past Saturday, a few players from the UC Santa Cruz women’s soccer team were on the other side of the ball — as referees, wearing t-shirts and whistles instead of jerseys.

It was the team’s third annual eight-versus-eight, adult, coed Soccer Slugfest Tournament. The team hosts the tournament to give Santa Cruz community members, students and alumni a chance to play the most popular sport in the world, while also supporting the women’s team through entrance fees.

“It’s one of the biggest fundraisers we have each year for the upcoming season,” said sophomore player Olivia Dobbs. “Next year we are going to Washington and Kentucky, so it helps pay our traveling fees.”

The tournament was held on the OPERS lower field, where both the men’s and women’s teams play during practice and the regular season. There were six teams participating in the tournament — three of which consisted of undergraduate and graduate students, and three comprised of various community members.

“It was beneficial uniting the community and UCSC students because they were able to compete against one another,” said freshman player Rikki Porter.

For teams to participate, four men and three women had to be on the field at all times, and the goalie could be either sex. There was a fee of $125 as a special team discount before May 12 and $150 after May 14. Non-student teams had to pay $250 before May 12 and $300 after May 14. This year the team raised around $700 from the tournament after entrance fees and snacks and gear sales.

The tournament also connected other departments of the university as there were students from various departments on different teams.

“It’s good to get recognition from different organizations on campus because it helps us get support from the UCSC student body and the Santa Cruz community throughout our season,” Dobbs said.

The tournament consisted of two brackets split into two different categories based on age. All teams were given three games minimum and, depending on their performance, were given the opportunity to qualify for the championship game.

No New Friends, a team including former women’s player Sam Li and members from the men’s club team, won all four of their qualifying games and made it to the championship game. They were met by the graduate student team PH Big D’s and their star player Patrick B. Ellis, a former Bradley University club player and current UCSC electrical engineering graduate student.

Despite a hat trick by Ellis that sent the game into a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation, No New Friends came away with a 5-4 victory on the heels of a huge save by their goalie during penalties.

“Playing in the tournament was a lot of fun,” Li said. “The championship game was a little nerve-wracking going into double overtime and penalty kicks, but it was a really fun day to play soccer and support the women’s team.”

There were rules throughout the day that had to be enforced by the referees — such as no slide tackling — and the referees were instructed to kick out any player charged with two violent fouls. The play was still very physical despite the presence of the Slug referees, but nothing got out of hand. For the referees, it was strange having to enforce rules about the fouls and slides they often commit while playing.

“People really get into the game. It’s weird being on the other end of the stick,” Dobbs said. “When I play I usually talk back to the referees, and it was weird having them yell at me because of a bad call.”

Dobbs and the rest of her teammates who refereed on Saturday may have a different attitude next season when dealing with referees. They’ll potentially be more understanding after picking themselves up from a missed tripping call, or seeing an opposing player touch the ball illegally — then again, once they’re in game mode, maybe not.

The Slugs had their fun during Slugfest, but it’s not long now before they have to get serious again. They finished last season losing six of their last eleven games and missing the tournament with a record of 9-7-2, so they’ll be looking to avoid that second half slump this year.

They’ll have very little time to rest as they begin practicing more than a month before the 2014 school year begins. While most students will still be enjoying summer vacation, the women will be here — with their cleats dug in, and their eyes on the ball.