El Paso, TX — The University of Texas at El Paso men’s soccer club will participate in the 20th annual NIRSA National Soccer Championships Nov. 21-23 at the Reach 11 Sport Complex in Phoenix. This is the team’s first appearance in the tournament since 2005.
The squad is part of the Southwest Desert Conference and competes against teams from universities in Arizona and New Mexico. It earned the right to participate in the Phoenix tournament by winning the regional Southwest Tournament, Oct. 25-27, in Socorro, N.M.
“I’m really excited about this group,” head coach Jorge Hernandez said before a recent practice. The team practices from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at UTEP’s University Field. “These guys have great talent and are committed. They brought the UTEP name to where it used to be and where it belongs among championship teams.”
The club team, which falls under UTEP’s Recreational Sports Department, is a student organization that was started to raise knowledge about soccer on campus and to unify those who share a common interest in the sport. The squad is open to any UTEP student and has about 30 members.
Club president Gregorio “Greg” Contreras said the players, most who were raised in El Paso, Juárez and other communities in Chihuahua, Mexico, are peaking at the right time.
The students are balancing their studies, team practices and individual trainings with fundraising efforts to help with the costs tied to the upcoming national tournament. UTEP’s Student Government Association and Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs already have committed financial help.
Andrea Vazquez, visiting assistant professor of theater and dance and the club’s faculty adviser, praised the players for their commitment as athletes and students.
“They acknowledge the challenges of accomplishing quality work in their majors while demonstrating outstanding athletic performance,” Vazquez said. “I believe they will represent UTEP brilliantly.”