Cal State Fullerton makes changes for ’16-17 campaign
The past campaign was not what Cal State Fullerton’s hockey team had hoped for.
In a season in which the team went 6-14-1, the Titans felt that, at certain points, they spent more time in scrums than playing the game they love.
“We had a lot of discipline issues as a team,” team VP Ethan Chapluk said. “We took a lot of penalties. I think we probably averaged around 15-20 minutes per game.”
Fullerton was looking for a new voice of reason, but rather than run from their problems, the Titans looked from within to replace Ronnie White as coach.
Assistant coach Tony Cortes was tapped to be the man in charge behind the Titans bench. A Fullerton alumnus himself, getting the call turned out to be a dream come true for Cortes.
“There’s a certain amount of pride that goes pretty deep with me because I’m a Fullerton alum,” he said. “My son will soon be a Fullerton alum. I want to see the program organizationally and support-wise take the next step.”
Cortes has coached hockey players for 25 years. He bills himself as a players’ coach who will let them know exactly where they stand.
“I think that’s very important for players in any sport,” Cortes said. “Wanting to know where they stand. I think it’s good for them to try to improve their standing.”
Cal State Fullerton had its moments last year. They swept the season series with rival Long Beach State.
Chapluk, a junior left wing, says the next step for the Titans is to learn how to put together long stretches of inspired play.
“We’d have a great game where we scored a lot of goals and didn’t take too many penalties, and then the next game we would be in the box the entire game and not be able to do any damage because of that,” he said. “Our goal this year has to be on consistency. If we make consistent performances like we did against Long Beach State, for instance, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The Titans are experiencing a youth movement, which could play into the hands of the new coach as he tries to put his stamp on the program.
There is a great deal of intrigue surrounding one of CSUF’s newest faces. Brooke Hernandez, a transfer from Cerritos College, could get the starting nod between the pipes.
Hernandez, a 5-foot-9, 21-year-old goaltender remembers the humorous nature of her beginnings in the game. She was a high school student at Brethren Christian in Huntington Beach when she decided to join the roller hockey team.
“When I was 17, I just put on some random old pads,” Hernandez said. “I actually put them on backwards.
“The first time, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just threw myself on the floor, and I fell in love with it.”
Chapluk said the team was quick to show its support when the possibility of having a girl on the roster arose. In fact, Hernandez was recruited by some of the players.
Early reviews from teammates pegged Hernandez as a positionally-sound netminder.
As far as Cortes is concerned, gender should play no role in a player’s candidacy for his team. The foremost determinant is “fit.”
“The door is open,” he said. “You want to play hockey, let’s get on the ice and see how it goes. If it’s the right fit, welcome to the team.”
Hernandez’s motivation for playing fits right in with Cortes’ focus on playing for the school.
“I really value when you have a good team that support and love each other because it makes it fun to be out there,” she said. “Personally, I’ve always found that I play best when I’m having fun and when my teammates are having fun.”
Hernandez could be a catalyst for greater change. Her presence on Cal State Fullerton’s hockey team could draw attention to the deficit of women’s club hockey teams on the west coast.
The thought of having a women’s club hockey team on campus excites Cortes. He recognizes that the road to that reality is a step-by-step process.
“I think it’s going to have to start exactly where we’re at right now where we’re going to have to get some girls interested and willing to come out and give it a shot to play on the team that exists now,” he said.
“If there was an opportunity where we could get a club team and get those numbers up, that would be phenomenal.”
– Andrew Turner