The forgotten athletes: Tech’s soccer club looks for student support

In the fall of 2013, Arkansas Tech students revived a forgotten men’s soccer club on campus and has since joined league play with other Arkansas colleges.

The club’s original inception on campus was in 2007 when a student named Jesse Dare created the soccer organization. But after his graduation, the club vanished.

Until a year and a half ago, when Kevin Paletskih, a senior electrical engineering major from Russellville, along with fellow student Melbim Sanchez, became eager to start a team at Tech available to all male students because of “a large demand from the student body,” Paletskih said.

Students Dustin Krimmel and Austin Harness joined Paletskih and Sanchez in their pioneer efforts, and together the four decided to delegate the duties that come with running a club between themselves.

“I became the president, Melbim the vice president, Austin is now the treasure and Dustin handles public relations,” he said. “My role in our club has been taking everything and spreading it among the executive board. In reality, I’ve had to do most of the work, asking everyone else for assistance where needed. This, hopefully, will change, and it will be more group work rather than one guy being in charge.”

Although the guys have termed their team a “club,” over the summer Paletskih worked with Student Life on campus to create an Arkansas Collegiate Soccer League.

“Tech, the University of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and Arkansas State are the teams involved in the league,” Paletskih said. “The league was made to be expandable; therefore, more colleges should join in the future.”

Paletskih said the teams play each other twice during the league’s two-month regular season. Each game won earns three points, a loss rewards zero points and one point is given to both teams in the event of a tie.

League scores and standings are all kept online so teams can track how they’re doing throughout the season. The team with the most points at the end of regular season advances to regionals, and the winner of regionals advances to nationals in Phoenix, Ariz.

The whole season can take up to an entire semester — revealing the club’s dedication to the sport.

Tech supports the club “to some extent,” Paletskih said, offering to pay for referees this semester and providing financial aid for desperately needed practice equipment. Aside from the costs the university covers, each player pays $50 in dues for a season, which goes toward registration, a shirt and other small expenses.

Traveling to games is a current obstacle for the club. As of right now, the squad piles into cars and splits the cost of gas.

“We are currently trying to figure out a way to get some of our travel sponsored,” Paletskih said. “We only have three away games this regular season, though.”

As of right now the team is 25 men strong, though, only 18 are taken for road games. To earn a spot on the squad, prospective players must attend a two-day tryout at the beginning of each semester.

“We are still a young organization with a lot to work on,” Paletskih said. “Every semester the plan is to get better and continue on that path. Establishing a strong team here at Tech comes first and foremost.”