Fresno City College Women’s Soccer: A Brief History

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The 2017 Squad, via FCC Womens’ Soccer Twitter

The history of women’s soccer at Fresno City College shares many similarities with teams established at the collegiate level across many campuses in the United States. Oftentimes, the women’s team began as a club sport and relied on the players to supply their own funding for uniforms and transportation. Women’s soccer at the collegiate level really began to take root in the 1960s and 1970s when Ivy league schools like Yale, Brown, and Cornell transitioned their club teams into official teams and began competing against one another.[1] Colleges around the nation soon began following the pattern that these universities set. According to historian Jean Williams, by 1981 there were anywhere between 50 to 100 programs in women’s soccer and by 1999 there were as many as 790  programs.[2]

Passed in 1972, Title IX  prohibited discrimination based on gender in public schools. Although slow in its implementation, and often contested legally, it led to an increase in the number of women’s teams in various sports in colleges around the nation.[3] In the Fresno area, women’s soccer at the collegiate level took off a bit later than at Ivy league universities, but nonetheless the story is almost the same. Fresno City College took the lead in women’s soccer and showed an earlier commitment to women’s participation in soccer. The arrival of women’s soccer to Fresno City College resulted in many successes and victories, and most importantly provided an avenue of opportunity for women soccer players in the surrounding cities of the Fresno area.

possible coaching assistants 10-31-2000 (1)

                                                   Origins and Commitment

Fresno City College and the junior college system made a relatively early commitment to athletics in 1985.[4] Fresno City men’s golf coach recalls that it was the year “when things took off.”[5] Title IX passed in 1972 and Fresno City College created ladies’ volleyball and tennis teams in the 1970s to meet the law’s requirements. It was only after the concerted effort to improve the entire junior college system’s athletics in the 1980s that a women’s soccer team was established in 1987.[6] One must account for the time it took Fresno City to establish the women’s team, compared to the men’s team which was established in 1975. Although Fresno City did attempt to add more women’s teams in response to Title IX requirements, it is still unclear why it took longer to get the women’s soccer team established. Perhaps the ideas of masculine and feminine sports had an impact on the delay in the Fresno area, and sports like tennis and volleyball were perceived to be safer athletic options for women.[7]

It is important to note that even though Fresno City’s women’s soccer came later than that of the Ivy League universities in 1960s and 1970s, its arrival is relatively early when compared to Fresno State’s 1995 women’s soccer team and Fresno Pacific University’s, established in 2001. Men’s soccer coach Bill Neal tried to get the women’s team established earlier, and the establishment of both teams is often credited to his efforts.[8] Neal certainly showed commitment to soccer at the collegiate level as he coached both teams concurrently until 1999.[9] The transition of Fresno City’s club team to an official team benefited the players. They no longer had to pay for their uniforms or transportation to games; all expenses would be paid by the athletics department.[10] The relatively early arrival of women’s soccer at Fresno City College had great impact because the players now had another avenue of opportunity for women wanting to play soccer at the collegiate level.

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The squad from 2000

                                                     Successes and Victories

The early success of Fresno City women’s soccer is proof that the talent and drive to play soccer was present in the Central Valley even before an official collegiate team was established. In 1988, only one year after its establishment, the women’s soccer team won their first Camino Norte title and the State Championship.[11] In the thirteen years that Bill Neal coached the women’s team, they won seven titles in total. This was surely no easy feat, especially when we consider the challenges that arise in seeing consistent results and victories when the players will be on the team for two years on average.[12] The victories of Fresno City’s women’s soccer did not end after Bill Neal’s retirement.

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Coach Oliver Germond took over in 2001 and has managed to continue the success of women’s soccer at Fresno City College. Bill Neal continued to assist Coach Germond during his first season at Fresno City, and the school had high hopes of a bright future with their new coach. Germond was previously on faculty at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California as the assistant women’s coach, where his team won the Western State Conference Southern Division championship. He had also previously coached at Hart High School with an overall coaching record of 110-24-20.[13] Since coming on as the head coach of the Fresno City College women’s soccer team, Coach Germond has experienced immense triumphs in his career. In his seventeen years of coaching at Fresno City, he has been honored as the Central Valley Conference Coach of the Year eleven times and was NSCAA National Head Coach of the Year in 2014.[14] In addition, he has taken his team to the final four of the state championships five times.

His best year, however,  was 2017. The team’s season record was 25-0-2. They won the CCCAA State Championship for the first time since Bill Neal took the team in 1988.[15] They went on to win the JC Division III National Championship. Germond also received awards for both Regional and National Coaching Staff of the Year in 2017. The National Player of the Year, Danielle Pacheco, also came from the Fresno City College women’s team. In addition to Pacheco, Fresno City soccer players Jasmine Garibay and Riana Castaneda made the First All-American Team. Fresno City’s history of success and victories continues to awe and to prove that Fresno City’s commitment to athletics has yielded great results.

                                             Opportunities Then and Now

The fact that Fresno City College established its women’s soccer program eight years before Fresno State had important consequences. Sports at the junior college level give student athletes the opportunity to develop their skills while studying and the chance to be scouted by a four-year university or professional teams. There are many early examples of the opportunities that an official collegiate women’s soccer provided for Fresno’s women soccer players in the 1980s and early 90s . Erica Carter, the women’s soccer captain for Fresno City in 1993, felt that Fresno State’s interest in establishing an official team was too late.[16] She remarked that she would have attended Fresno State right out of high school if the school had an official soccer team.[17] In another instance in 1993, Coach Bill Neal remarked that Fresno City College had a good monopoly on women soccer players after two consecutive years of Camino Norte title victories. The only factor that could jeopardize their position was if Fresno State established its own official soccer team and “took a lot of [his] good players,” he remarked.[18] The previous year, two players responsible in helping achieve the title victories had transferred from Fresno State to Fresno City College.[19] Fresno State was missing out on a lot of soccer talent by not having an official team.

In addition, many players from Fresno City College have gone on to play at four-year universities. In 1993, Fresno City’s back-to-back title victories led to universities like UC Davis and Cal-Poly recruiting players Sally Carr and Karen Cummings.[20] Under Coach Oliver Germond the trend of opportunity and recruitment continues. Every year since he became the head coach, Germond’s players have transferred to universities far and wide.[21] Some stay in the city or within the state, but many have gone as far as Hawaii and Florida. This year alone, nine players on the team received university scholarships, three to Division I teams. Four of these players have been recruited by California State Universities, such as Danielle Pacheco, who will be playing for Fresno State next year. Germond’s players have also been recognized nationwide. Kailey Lemon and Jasmine Garibay will be in Oregon next year at Southern Oregon and University of Portland, respectively. Kalea Ashley will be at Texas A&M and Cassie Sandoval at Northwest Nazarene.[22]

The story of former Fresno City College goalkeeper Maria Magaña also stands out, illustrating just how important community college is to creating pipelines for working-class student-athletes.  Maria Magaña’s family migrated to the United States and settled in the Central Valley before she was born. Like many immigrants, they came to this country for a better life and opportunity. Although her family played soccer for fun in Mexico, they never really had the opportunity to pursue a career in it because there was not enough time due to work. Soccer skills run in Maria’s family. She has two cousins who currently play in the USL, Miguel Gonzales and Daniel Gonzalez who play for Energy FC in Oklahoma. Maria herself is the first player from the Fresno City College women’s soccer team to sign a professional soccer contract. She signed with Einherji FC in Iceland in 2018.[23]

Maria grew up in Reedley, California, a small agricultural city in southern Fresno County. Maria recalled that soccer was not very popular when she was growing up and that one of her biggest struggles was the lack of opportunity, money, and time to dedicate to the sport. The travel team she wanted to play with was too expensive, there were no nearby teams for her to play with, and her parents were too busy to drive her to trainings.  Despite all that, her mother always supported her in anything she wanted to do and encouraged her to not let anyone stand in her way. In middle school, she finally had the opportunity to play sports. In addition to soccer, Maria also played basketball and volleyball and competed in track. Maria remarked that she often played goalkeeper when she played with guys and that they tended to underestimate her skills because of her gender. She was able to prove that she was a great player and that proving those who doubted her skills as an athlete wrong felt amazing.

In high school, her coaches changed her soccer positions from forward/midfielder to goalkeeper. During her last two years of high school at Reedley High School, her soccer team was able to win their first league victory in the school’s history, an accomplishment that Maria credits to her coach Bladamir Pizano and his great advice and coaching.  Maria was recruited by Coach Oliver Germond and decided to attend Fresno City College after graduating. She had also considered attending Fresno State but ultimately decided that she wanted to be part of Oliver’s team and the philosophy that he had when it came to soccer. She played for Fresno City College in 2013 and 2014 and is grateful that FCC gave her the opportunity to grow, become a better plyer, and transfer to a UC. After Fresno City College, UC Irvine recruited Maria where she continued to play soccer.

Throughout her collegiate career, her coaches — Oliver Germond at Fresno City as well as the UC Irvine staff – pushed her to do her best. Germond taught her to be aware and confident in her decision making on the field. Her time at Fresno City prepared her to move forward from the high school level into a more challenging environment both physically and mentally. In her time at UC Irvine, Maria discovered that the level of competition was even greater. According to Maria, without her experience at the community college level, she would never have made it to where she has today, and she has an exciting future ahead of her. Maria says that the patience to wait for your opportunity to arise and focus to work hard to achieve your goals are vital virtues that she would advise younger soccer players to employ in their journey.[24]

                                                              Conclusion

Fresno City College’s early commitment to women’s participation in soccer led to many victories for the team and its players over the years. From the beginning, the creation of the women’s soccer team created more opportunities within higher education for a number of young women who otherwise may not have had the drive or even the ability to attend a university. Through coaches like Bill Neal and Oliver Germond, the players continue to improve their skills to the necessary level to move beyond junior college to universities and professional teams. The history of Fresno City College women’s soccer is one of commitment to the players through coaching, recruitment, victories, and opportunities that has lasted for thirty years and will continue to create successful soccer players for years to come. Great players like Maria Magaña who come from small Central Valley towns will continue to benefit from the opportunities that Fresno City provides. Through them, young girls who want to play soccer will have successful women to look up to. Through this cycle of opportunity and success, the passion and drive to play soccer will hopefully continue to grow for the young girls of the Central Valley.

Edna Diaz Ortega is a senior undergraduate history student at California State University, Fresno. A mother and wife with a passion for learning, her goal after graduating is to continue learning about Mexican-American and Turkish history and use that knowledge to teach her children to embrace the rich cultures and histories that make up their family. 

Elaine Vollmer is an undergraduate student at California State University, Fresno.

This essay is part of Fresno State’s archive and public history project The Other Football: Tracing the Game’s Roots and Routes in the San Joaquin Valley. We are always looking for former players to interview and in search of old photograph to scan and digitize. If you would like to help us build the archive and preserve the history of soccer please contact Professor Romeo Guzmán at romeog@csufresno.edu

If you would like us to attend a soccer game and distribute our trading cards, like the one below, get in touch.

References

[1] Jean Williams, A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women’s Football (Oxford: Oxford International Publishers Ltd., 2007), 60-61.

[2] Williams, A Beautiful Game, 61.

[3] Ibid., 59.

[4] Jeff Davis, “Building On Its Success – Impressive Efforts by Fall Sports Teams Typify a Commitment to Sports Excellence Made Nearly Two Decades Ago,” The Fresno Bee December 22, 2000; D1.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Bauea M. Crosby, “FCC Women’s Soccer Is Official,” The Rampage September 18, 1987; 4. Accessed May 5, 2018. https://www.therampageonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/87_F_02_Sep18.pdf

[7] Williams, A Beautiful Game, 60. Williams describes the demasculinization of soccer as a sport in the 60s and 70s in the United States.

[8] Jan W. Petersen, “Fresno CC In New League for Soccer,” The Fresno Bee, August 20, 1986; D8.

[9] Ken Robinson, “Rams Athletics Steps Into Spotlight With Stellar State Showing,” The Fresno Bee, June 9, 1999; D6.

[10] Crosby, “FCC Women’s Soccer Is Official,” 4.

[11] D.K. Fultz, “FCC Soccer Champs,” The Rampage, November 14, 1988; D.K. Fultz, “Soccer Team Competes In Championship,” The Rampage, December 5, 1988. Accessed on May 5, 2018. https://www.therampageonline.com/archives/ ; “History of Champions,” Fresno City College website. Accessed on July 23, 2018. http://fresnocc.prestosports.com/history

[12] Davis, “Building On Its Success,” D1.

[13] Fresno City College Fall Sports Media Guide (2000). Accessed at Fresno City College Library.

[14] Presto Sports, Fresno City College, Coaches, Oliver Germond. http://fresnocc.prestosports.com/sports/wsoc/coaches/Oliver_Germond?view=bio

[15] Anthony Galaviz, “Fresno City completes unbeaten season with state soccer crown,” The Fresno Bee, December 3, 2017. http://www.fresnobee.com/sports/article187877429.html.

[16] George Hostetter, “College Athletics Changing, But At What Cost? Title IX, Settlement of Now Suit Expected to Change Women’s and Men’s Athletics at FSU,” The Fresno Bee, October 26, 1993; C1.

[17] Ibid.

[18] George Hostetter, “All News Is Good News for FCC’s Wayte,” The Fresno Bee, March 18, 1993; D10.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Presto Sports, Fresno City College, Women’s Soccer, “Rams on the Move,” http://fresnocc.prestosports.com/sports/wsoc/2017-18/files/OnTheMove

[22] FCC Women’s Soccer (@FCCWOMENSSOCCER), Twitter, May 4, 2018. https://twitter.com/FCCWOMENSSOCCER/status/992535019854876672 (Image)

[23] FCC Women’s Soccer (@FCCWOMENSSOCCER), Twitter, April 2, 2018.

[24] Interview with Maria Magaña.

Author: Romeo Guzman

I am an assistant professor in U.S. and Public History at Fresno State, where I founded and direct the Valley Public History Initiative. I received my Ph.D. in Latin American history at Columbia University. I am the co-director of the South El Monte Arts Posse and its award-winning public history project East of East. I currently reside in the Central Valley (with regular visits to the San Gabriel Valley) with Carribean Fragoza, the writer, and Aura, our sassy and fierce six year old. For more on my writings visit romeoguzman.com

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