SAN MARCOS — The 10- and 11-year-old members of the AYSO U12-Girls soccer team, the San Marcos Shooting Stars, got a big surprise at their Oct. 1 practice. Their eyes widened and their jaws dropped as they watched the athletes of the Cal State San Marcos Cougars stride out onto the field at Walnut Grove Park to play.
It started with an e-mail sent by Paloma Elementary teacher Kathleen Hilton to Cal State womens soccer Coach Ron Pulvers titled “Cougars-Class of 2020.” She asked if the college team might be able to provide some mentoring for the fifth-graders and noted that they might, someday, become Cougars too.
“I thought, why not?” Hilton said. “All he could say is no.”
The coach didn’t say no. In fact, he invited his team to join the girls at their next Wednesday practice. Eight of the 14 women were able to attend.
“When we first got there, they were all excited to see us,” Cougar defensive center Angela Matera said. “They didn’t really know what to do.”
“I was a little bit nervous because they’re so big and I’m so small, but then I was excited,” Hilton’s daughter Carisa, the Stars center forward, said. She added that playing with the Cougars gave her hope that she might become a college soccer player some day.
Each of the Cougars took a few Stars under wing and ran them through drills to improve their game. There was a lot of giggling and laughing throughout the training.
“It was exactly the way it was supposed to be where the Stars looked up at the big girls and said, ‘I could do this one day,’ Hilton said. “And the big girls were looking down and thinking, ‘Remember when it used to be fun and we were just playing? Now it’s hard work!’”
The highlight of the event was the scrimmage. The Cougars split up and played with the Stars in a head to head practice match. Not only did the children get to practice their newly learned moves, they got to experience playing against some very talented players.
“I think that they let me do this, but I scored a couple of goals on their goalie,” Carisa said proudly.
Since the practice, the Shooting Stars have attended a Cougars game at Cal State. The Cougars returned the favor, jogging from their campus to the park to watch the Stars. The girls lost 3-1 but the training had made an impact, according to Matera.
“They took what they learned from us and brought it to the game,” she said. “They definitely surprised us.”
The season is now ending for the Stars and the playoffs-bound Cougars, but Hilton hopes to continue the relationship between her and the college team.
“They were so polite and so encouraging and such good role models to the girls,” she said. “I’ll try it again next year, whatever team (Carisa) is on.”
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