The UC San Diego men’s soccer team, holding a 5-1-1 record, is off to its best start since moving to the Division II level. A big part of the Tritons’ success can be attributed to a deep roster and a strong bench. One of UCSD’s top reserves, senior forward Tony Fernandez, has picked up five points through the first seven contests. Fernandez, a Rancho Bernardo High School grad and San Diego native, put together his most impressive performance on Aug. 30 against NAIA foe Concordia University Irvine. Scoring two goals off the bench, Fernandez’s feat hadn’t been accomplished by a Triton player since Nov. 1, 2004, in a 4-0 UCSD victory against Cal State San Bernardino. “Tony is a lot to handle physically,” said first-year head coach Jon Pascale, referring to Fernandez’s 6-foot-4 and 205 pound stature. “But he’s not just a physical specimen. He makes good touches and has a good nose for the goal.” In between key matchups against California Collegiate Athletic Association South Division rivals, Fernandez took time to answer a few questions about joining the Tritons’ squad, the direction of his team and his future plans following graduation.
Q What did you take away from your experiences at Santa Clara University, where the squad you were on participated in the NCAA College Cup?
FERNANDEZ I was able to take away a number of things from my time at SCU. First off, I learned what it takes to be a successful student athlete in a competitive program. Secondly, I played with a number of guys that were on their way to becoming professionals, which definitely made me a better player on and off the field. Third, I saw that it takes more than just talent and ability to make it to the college cup.
Q As a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School, how does it feel to be playing soccer close to home again?
FERNANDEZ It feels great to be able to play in front of family and friends again. There was a point where the doctors told me I’d never play soccer again. The fact that I’m back on the field and playing in my hometown is more than I could ever ask for.
Q What's the best line of inspiration you've received and who gave it to you?
FERNANDEZ I can’t pick any specific line as the most inspirational but rather I pick my dad as the most inspiring person in my life. He isn’t one to sugar coat anything and he's always there to push me. It’d be impossible to pick one single thing that he’s said that stuck with me but rather the example that he sets is something I strive to match. He is always someone I can count on to believe in me.
Q What advantages and disadvantages come with being a forward with such size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds)?
FERNANDEZ Well, I’d say the biggest disadvantage is I normally don’t get too many calls in my favor from the referee. I definitely need to be in control of how I handle myself on the pitch, otherwise I attract attention that I don’t want. One advantage of my size is that I am an easy target to spot on the field. Also, my size allows for me to keep possession of the ball, which helps the rest of the team move up the field and such. Also, if the other team decides to mark me with more than one person, it leaves my teammates free to get open and exploit the open space.
Q What were the best and worst parts about being the oldest of four children in your family?
FERNANDEZ Well, being the eldest meant that I was the guinea pig. My parents were more strict with me than my two younger brothers. As for the youngest, she is five and the only girl so she’ll be a completely different case as she grows up. Despite that, I really prefer being the eldest. I really enjoy the fact that my brothers can call me and ask me for advice. Secondly, I love having a little sister. She’s a lot of fun.
Q Has such a strong start for the Tritons passed your wildest expectations?
FERNANDEZ To be honest, I had very high expectations for our team. I knew once I started working with the new coaching staff and training with the team in the spring that we had all the right ingredients. Everyday the coaches and players work very hard so it is no surprise to me that we have had a very positive start to our season.
Q In a tense moment during a UCSD match, who can you count on most to lighten the mood?
FERNANDEZ That’s a tough one. I’d have to say everyone has the capacity of making light of the situation no matter how tense the situation - even the coaches.
Q What's your favorite practice drill assigned by first-year head coach Jon Pascale?
FERNANDEZ I’d have to say that possession is by far my favorite drill.
Q How has the Tritons' coaching staff contributed to the early success of UCSD's team this year?
FERNANDEZ The coaches bring a level of commitment, energy and professionalism that serve as model for the team. Each of the four coaches bring something a little different to the table that allows each player to learn something new, which makes for a very dynamic learning environment. The work they put into this program is parallel any top-notch program in the country and has already begun to show.
Q As a transfer, did you encounter any difficulty in building chemistry with your new teammates?
FERNANDEZ I found that the transition into this team was seamless. It’s a great group of guys and they made it very easy to be part of the team. I think this will play a big part in our success as a team, which is parallel to my experience at Santa Clara University. Talent on a team is useless without great team chemistry and camaraderie.
Q What are your plans after graduation?
FERNANDEZ I have ambitions of pursuing soccer at the next level and travel a little bit at the same time.
Previous Q&A Articles:
Kimberly Carpenter (Women's Volleyball) September 12, 2008
A.J. Kotanjian (Men’s Water Polo) September 2, 2008
Peter Akman (Men's Soccer) August 21, 2008
Natasha Belak-Berger (Women's Soccer) August 15, 2008
Jake LaVieux (Men's Cross Country) August 8, 2008
Dr. Penny Rue (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) July 30, 2008
Michelle Torres (Women's Volleyball) July 15, 2008
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer Head Coach) July 1, 2008
Julie Ertel (Athletics) June 16, 2008
Clint Allard (Men's Basketball) June 9, 2008
Jen Myers (Women's Crew) May 27, 2008
Casey Ryan (Men's Track and Field and Men's Basketball) May 21, 2008
Keith Noe (Baseball) May 13, 2008
Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 30, 2008
Sydney Gstettenbauer (Women's Water Polo) April 22, 2008
Sarah Hendy (Women's Track and Field) April 17, 2008
Eric Leserman (Men's Volleyball) April 9, 2008
Danielle Lukk (Softball) April 4, 2008
Chris Franco (Baseball) March 24, 2008
Dan Perdew (Swimming) March 18, 2008
Evan Hsiao (Swimming) March 9, 2008
Eric Rubens (Men's Tennis) February 27, 2008
Melissa Ward (Softball) February 20, 2008
Cameron Sprowles (Fencing) February 13, 2008
Kim Hockett (Women's Water Polo) February 6, 2008
Trevor Decker (Baseball) January 31, 2008
Jordan Lawley (Men's Basketball) January 23, 2008
Jason Spangler (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2008
Andrew Skewes (Men's Diving) December 26, 2007
Alexis Gaskin (Women's Basketball) December 17, 2007
Aubrey Panis (Women's Swimming) December 2, 2007
Andrew Hatch (Men's Basketball) November 26, 2007
Kevin Klein (Men's Cross Country) November 12, 2007
Kim Adams (Women's Volleyball) November 7, 2007
Ben Miller (Men's Water Polo) October 31, 2007
Alie Avina (Women's Soccer) October 19, 2007
Charity Elliott (Women's Basketball Head Coach) October 15, 2007