Comeback trail proves fruitful for Aiden Apodaca, Cal Baptist
By Dennis Pope
RIVERSIDE — It’s a well-worn trope, but timing is everything.
Aiden Apodaca needed time to recover from knee surgery, and the California Baptist University men’s soccer team needed time to gel under new coach head coach Coe Michaelson.
As the two have intertwined over the last two seasons – Apodaca’s return to fitness and Michaelson’s influence on the team – the group has become a force in NCAA Division II and a favorite to win a national championship.
“I took me a while to get back to where I wanted to be physically so it’s been a fun season and it’s exciting to be playing in the NCAA Tournament,” said Apodaca, who leads all NCAA men’s players with 29 goals in 19 games this season.
Seeking to further its most successful season to date, top-seeded Cal Baptist University (17-0-2 overall) plays Cal Poly Pomona (16-5-0) in a Division II West Region semifinal at Stang Park in Wichita Falls, Texas, at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The winner advances to the regional championship game Saturday night.
“Everybody on this team is willing to work for each other, and I think that’s where a lot of our success has come from this season,” Apodaca said. “It’s been difficult at times coming back, but this a great group of guys on this team.”
Apodaca’s recovery from surgery to repair a torn meniscus his sophomore year proved arduous when he “picked up a few nicks” during the early days of his return to the field.
“I was a little too eager to come back,” he said. “Looking back, I probably pushed myself too hard, and I felt like it kind of messed with me mentally but I don’t think I’d be where I am without experiencing a little bit of the hardship and having to work through everything.”
Michaelson knew from the start […]