When Lara Mukhar, sophomore kinesiology major, noticed just how many students wanted to play soccer, but weren’t part of Chapman’s D3 teams, she knew she had to do something.
And that’s when Mukhar’s idea to start a soccer club began.
For students like Mukhar, who played soccer during all four years of high school, the sudden absence of a team sport can be challenging.
“Being on a team for my entire life, and then suddenly not being on one anymore, was very hard for me. The bonds you form with your teammates are difficult to describe, but like no other friendship I’ve ever had before,” said Mukhar.
Mukhar found a solution through the Orange County Football Club (OCFC) which was started as a men’s team in the fall of 2015 by Tyler Newman and Trevor Atchison. Mukhar set forth to create the women’s team, with help from Newman and Atchison, fellow teammates Tanaz Nourian and Christina Farman, and Chapman D3 athlete Matthew Deemer.
A common trend among the members of the team was gaining back the sense of community and close-knit relationships that result from team sports. “Lara and I have been through so much together,” said Tanaz Nourian, a sophomore strategic and corporate communication and Spanish double major.
Nourian continued, “The girls on the team have been very loyal to us. By the end of the season, I could call it a team. I usually get teary eyed because I am so thankful for the experience Lara and these women have given me.”
Alicia Halikas, a sophomore kinesiology major, described her transition to Chapman and not playing a sport as difficult. “I felt like I couldn’t say I was an athlete anymore,” said Halikas.
Halikas recounted her experience joining the OCFC Women’s team, stating, “Being a part of the soccer club truly made me feel like myself again. I felt like an athlete again. Being an athlete was a part of my identity and losing that was hard. This club team was such a great experience and I am extremely proud to be a part of the team.”
The creation of a team from scratch brought forth a group of women with different personalities, unified by their love of soccer.
“Joining this team has been a completely different experience compared to my previous team ones,” said Hanna Gately, a junior business major. “I’ve met girls I would have never met otherwise who all bring something different to the team, whether it’s leadership, humor, skill or compassion.”
The OCFC formed as an organization outside of Chapman, as the school already has an NCAA soccer team. According to Chapman rules, club sports teams can only form if there is not already an existing NCAA team for the respective sport.
Lacrosse and ice hockey are two examples of club teams at Chapman that formed due to the lack of an NCAA team on campus. However, tryouts for an NCAA team are intense and a huge time commitment. OCFC allows students to stay involved with the sport they love, without the enormous responsibility that comes with being an NCAA athlete.
Mukhar spent the fall 2015 semester working to create the OCFC. Tryouts were held in November, with practices beginning over the winter interterm session.
The team practices three times a week. This season, the team played eight games, all against universities in the nearby area.
The OCFC recorded its first win on the last day of the season, in a shorthanded victory. “[For] our last game, hardly any girls showed up. We called a few and they ended up running over to the field. In the rain, short of players, we still got in our first win. It showed our commitment to the team than anything else,” said Gately.
“The last game we finally won and it was the most incredible feeling and the team just was filled with happiness. A team that was faced with so much adversity was able to rise to the challenge that game and win. That day is a day I will never forget,” said Halikas.
Mukhar described the experience of starting the team as “a roller coaster.”
“No one can really prepare you for the amount of work that needs to be put into creating, coaching and playing on a team,” said Mukhar. “But as challenging as it has been in certain moments, there is no way I would ever go back and not start the team. Starting OCFC Women’s team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”