More and more off the pitch, Chase Minter is having fellow Cal Poly students approach him on campus, recognizing him as a key contributor to the popular Mustangs’ men’s soccer team.
At 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, the junior midfielder doesn’t stand out in a crowd, but the quickness and skill he packs into that small frame makes him the prototypical threat in the Mustangs’ possession style.
“He can do things with a ball that I will never be able to do,” teammate and fellow junior Matt LaGrassa said, “and I’ve been playing just as long as he has. He’s just very gifted in that way.
“When a coach looks at Chase Minter, they see what I would call a very pretty player. He looks the part. He looks like a great soccer player when he’s out there. He’s very quick and gifted athletically.”
The Big West Conference recognized Minter this week as well. After the Rockwall-Heath High product and Texas native scored all three of the Mustangs’ goals in a road split against UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton, the conference named Minter its offensive player of the week.
He had the game-winner in the 82nd minute of a 1-0 victory over the Highlanders, and erased a two-goal deficit in a five-minute span before the Mustangs (7-3-3, 2-1-1 Big West) gave up the winning goal with just seconds remaining in a 3-2 loss to the Titans.
Going into Saturday’s match at Big West rival Sacramento State, Minter is surely being recognized by opponents as well. He leads Cal Poly, who sits in a first-place tie for the Big West North division lead, with six goals and 15 points. Minter also leads the conference in points, points per game (1.15) and shot attempts (39) and ranks second in goals.
“Minter, I would think, is a guy that teams would circle,” Cal Poly interim head coach Phil Ruskin said. “The Fullerton coach came up the other night right away after the match and congratulated him on a game well-played after scoring both goals for us.”
Being smaller than the typical goal-scoring college soccer star, Minter said he uses cleverness, deception and quickness to get ahead. Those have become as prized attributes as size at Cal Poly since former head coach Paul Holocher patterned the Mustangs’ possession style after FC Barcelona.
In addition to fan support, that philosophy, which Ruskin has continued to embrace, is one of two main reasons Minter declined to pursue other college options after being directed to Cal Poly by former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Steve Sampson.
“Gong and playing somewhere else in college,” Minter said, “I might not have gotten the same opportunities, same benefit in the style of play, but here, it’s really let me come into my own as a player.”
In this case, Cal Poly helped sell SLO
Usually, Mustangs athletics coaches use the allure of San Luis Obispo to help convince recruits to come to the Central Coast for college. In the case of Katarina Drake, Cal Poly helped her pick a high school.
Drake was living with her father in the Bay Area, attending San Mateo Aragon High when her mom, a San Luis Obispo resident signed her up for a Mustangs soccer camp.
The experience, Drake said, helped her fall in love with the city of San Luis Obispo and spurred her decision to transfer to San Luis Obispo High for her junior and senior seasons.
Drake committed to Cal Poly shortly after the move and said she knew it was the school for her since she never wanted to leave.
Now, the freshman midfielder is a key reserve for the Mustangs (7-8-0, 2-2-0 Big West), who have a Friday-Saturday road swing at UC Riverside and UC Irvine.
Also key in her development was San Luis Obispo High coach Kaleena Andruss, who also played at Cal Poly under head coach Alex Crozier.
“Honestly, my mom signed me up for a camp,” Drake said. “I wasn’t really in that great of a pursuit to go play college, I came and had so much fun and realized I could be a college athlete.
“Coach Andruss, she’s been such a great influence in my life, really set me up for college, super disciplined. I’ve learned a lot from her, and it’s been great to have a coach who’s been through the process.”
Mustangs facing heart of schedule
After a road split this past weekend, the Cal Poly volleyball team is 2-3 and tied for sixth in the Big West standings. The Mustangs return to Mott Athletics Center this week to take on the teams occupying the top two spots in the standings.
In fact, the next three matches will be against first place Long Beach State (14-4, 4-0 Big West) and CSUN (12-4, 3-1 Big West) at home and at perennial power Hawaii (12-5), which sits in fourth at 4-2.
Though there is plenty of room for improvement for a Mustangs team whose freshmen make up half the roster, there is excitement in knowing an upset could be brewing. Cal Poly is 5-2 at home this season.
“I would bet that if you asked the team, they’re quietly excited about being able to play against teams they know are good and have been in the top part of our conference in the last couple years,” Mustangs head coach Sam Crosson said.
Regarding inconsistency, Crosson added: “The things that we’re doing are correct. We’re just not always doing them at the right times. Good teams will make you pay the price when you’re not executing at as high a level as they are.”