Patience Pays Off

Marlin Agoub/Photography InternThe intensity, the precision, the skill, “I love it all,” said Christian Hernandez, the  starting forward for the men’s soccer team..

Hernandez grew up in Palmdale, Calif. with his parents and older brother.  Joining a club soccer team at nine years old exposed him to a high quality of play early on in his career.  Hernandez, his father and his brother all play and share a  love for the game.  This family support is a source of strength for Hernandez as he pursues his passion for the sport that brought him  to UCI.

Prior to his career with the ’Eaters, Hernandez attended Taft College, located about thirty minutes outside of Bakersfield, where he earned his associate’s degree and played forward for the Cougars.

In 2008 as a Cougar, Hernandez was honored with the Central Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year award with 16 goals and seven assists.

“It was my sophomore year and I didn’t expect to come [to UCI], but one of my former teammates played here, and when Coach [George] Kuntz [UCI’s head men’s soccer coach] watched one of our games, he said he was interested,” said Hernandez.

In the 2009 season, Hernandez recorded nine goals with 10 assists, earning the honors of NSCAA first team All-Region and NSCAA second team All-American – the forward was Irvine-bound.

Feeling right at home at UCI, Hernandez remarked, “I love being here, it’s amazing; the field, the training room, the beach, the weather, I like all of it.”

In his first year at UCI, Hernandez completed a minor in sociology while majoring in criminology. On the field, Hernandez played in all 20 matches and started six in 2010, scoring two goals and recording four assists in the team’s  14-3-3 season.

After failing to advance to the NCAA Tournament last season, Hernandez was motivated to come into his senior year even stronger.

“Coming into this season, we all had last year in the back of our minds,” he said. “We want to experience [the tournament], we want to know what it’s like. There are always going to be the people that don’t believe in us, but if our coaches believe in us, and we believe in ourselves, we can go far this year.”

Hernandez went home and whipped himself into shape over the summer.

“I set my mind to stay strong.  I kept playing hard, and trained even harder,” he said.

With a self-motivated attitude, Hernandez spent his time off from school running four to five hours a day followed by training with a soccer ball.  Knowing he had the chance to start, he wanted to make a statement.  With an undefeated team record thus far, the right-footed Hernandezis currently tied with Enrique Cardenas for most goals scored.

Hernandez scored a pivotal goal on Aug. 26 that gave Irvine a 1-0 victory over San Diego.  Two days later against Nebraska-Omaha, he delivered another game-winning goal to open the match in the twentieth minute. The talented forward was named the Big West Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

A week later, Hernandez scored twice against  highly-ranked Drake University to clench a 2-1 Irvine victory, earning himself back-to-back Big West Offensive Player of the Week awards.

Off to a fast start, Hernandez is thankful for the opportunity to play and lists starting for UCI as his greatest accomplishment in his athletic career.  With effort displayed on both the field and in the classroom, Hernandez is also proud of the hard work he has put into his education.  With the goal of one day playing for a professional team, Hernandez adds that he would love to coach.

“I want to stay around the game,” he said.

Looking forward to his senior year, Hernandez declared his desire to attend this year’s Shocktoberfest – an event hosted by ASUCI and UCI Athletics to kick-off the start of the basketball season.

The forward has worked himself into the starting lineup for Coach Kuntz’s team.

“[I made] the best of [my situation and I] worked hard. Everyone gets their chance [eventually].”