‘Keepers of the culture’: Matthew Teplitz and Ella Endo are The Occidental’s Athletes of the Week

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Ella Endo (first year), this week's Athlete of the Week, is a member of the women's soccer team at Occidental in Los Angeles, CA. Matthew Teplitz (senior), this week's Athlete of the Week, is a member of the men's soccer team at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 29, 2021. Theodore Tang/The Occidental

Matthew Teplitz

Matthew Teplitz (senior) scored the 75th-minute equalizer against Pomona-Pitzer in the men’s soccer team’s homecoming game Oct. 23, which led to a 2-1 Occidental win.

Teplitz, now in his fifth year at Occidental, said he has not missed a game while playing for Occidental, and can count on one hand how many training sessions he has had to miss.

“Being on the team for five years, I’ve seen it grow and gain momentum,” Teplitz said. “Of course, the first goal is always to win a national championship, but what I’ve learned is that the smaller steps to achieving that goal are what are most important.”

These small steps, according to Teplitz, are the culture of family and brotherhood the team has worked to build.

Head coach Rod Lafaurie also said the men’s soccer team is a family, and that Teplitz is the catalyst for the team’s positive approach.

“Matthew is the keeper of the culture on this team,” Lafaurie said. “His leadership sets an example across the team that everyone is compelled to follow.”

According to Teplitz, the team’s close bond since he arrived on the team in 2017 carried them to their best finish in the SCIAC tournament in program history. Though the pandemic halted that momentum, Teplitz said he and his teammates have worked to bring it back.

“Our season did not start the way that we wanted it to this year,” Teplitz said. “It forced us to take a hard look at ourselves, and focus on the things that we can control, and that is our attitude and culture we are building.”

According to Lafaurie, Teplitz is a physically gifted athlete, but it is his mentality that sets him apart as a leader on the team.

“Essentially there are two classes of men that are first years, which is something we’ve never had before,” Lafaurie said. “Matthew has stepped up and worked to push them harder, integrating them into the team while showing the standards that we have on the team in terms of attitude and drive.”

Looking back on his five years on Occidental’s soccer team, Teplitz said he wants to leave his mark to continue pushing the team forward so that they can win national championships even after he has hung up his cleats.

“Even if the season ends tomorrow, I feel satisfied with how the boys and I have done,” Teplitz said. “The family that we have created within the team is more important than results, because without being able to trust each other and lean on one another, there’s no way we will see results on the field.”

Ella Endo

Ella Endo* (first year) scored the lone goal in the Occidental women’s soccer team’s 4-1 loss against Pomona-Pitzer Oct. 23. Endo’s goal came when the Tigers were down 2-0, allowing the game to stay close before Pomona-Pitzer pulled away.

Endo arrived on the Occidental women’s soccer team after a gap year, netting four goals and one assist in her first season. However, she said her experience on the team has been about much more than the immediate results of games won or lost.

“Even though I took a gap year after high school, I still felt as though I was on the team, despite being remote,” Endo said. “I was able to get to know the team and grow close with them, which was helpful before coming to LA, which made it more welcoming.”

According to Endo, training during the pandemic was extremely difficult.

“It’s hard to be motivated without a team culture, and being on Zoom and talking with the team allowed me to recreate that environment. It helped me know what to expect when I finally arrived on campus,” Endo said.

Endo said the culture on the team is one of unity and respect, something that has resulted in the breakdown of any hierarchy of classes and cliques she was used to seeing on previous teams in high school.

“The entire team at Occidental is united, and it makes it so that I don’t know the grade levels of the team members because everyone is so open to talking and supportive,” Endo said.

During her gap year, Endo said that she was able to participate in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts within the team by creating team guidelines and ethos that acknowledge everyone’s different backgrounds.

“Being able to set high standards and feel comfortable within the team has been important, and prioritizing inclusivity and diversity has made the team culture stronger,” Endo said.

In addition to the team’s lack of cliques Endo was used to seeing on previous teams, senior leadership has helped younger players learn the ethos of the program, according to Endo.

“The seniors have been able to pass down a winning mentality that pushes us all further, in terms of playing time and effort we need to give at each training and game,” Endo said.

Endo said she chose Occidental because of the people that she was able to talk to, and how open they all were about their experiences — both the good and the bad. Now, as the regular season draws to a close, Endo said the identity of this team has challenged her to be both a better player on the field and person when she leaves it.

*Ella Endo is an illustrator for The Occidental.