By Matt Schwab
Small College Columnist
Cal State East Bay freshman midfielder Kellen Crow doesn't need to look far for world-class soccer advice.
His dad, Kevin, was once a towering defender with the U.S. national team and a five-time Major Indoor Soccer League all-star with the San Diego Sockers.
"He's taught me a lot about the game, just strategically," Kellen said of his dad. "I've learned a lot from his experience and just his knowledge."
Kellen Crow is early in his soccer journey, but Pioneers coach Andy Cumbo likes what he sees.
"He's made a real positive impact, more than a typical freshman usually does," Cumbo said of his starting holding midfielder. "Very smart, very disciplined. Reads the game very well. He's a good organizer for us defensively."
It turns out the Crow family tree has many athletic branches. Kellen's grandfather, Wayne (Cal), played halfback, safety and punter for the Oakland Raiders in 1960-1961. Kellen's brother, Kamron, 16, attends Amador Valley and plays for the De Anza Force under-15/16 team in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
The Pioneers are off to an encouraging start after a rough 2011 season. Last week they earned back-to-back road draws against Cal State Stanislaus (0-0) and Chico State (1-1), no easy feat in the powerful California Collegiate Athletic Association.
Kellen Crow said he took a "gap year" after high school and trained with England's Sheffield Wednesday and Dutch club Quick 1888, each for six months. He returned home with a stronger game and a tougher mindset.
"I'm 19 (years old) and guys over there are 16 playing for these professional clubs," Crow said. "They have it in them. They have the mindset that 'I want to be a professional.' "
Kellen played high school soccer in Sacramento for three years before transferring to Amador Valley after his dad was hired as the technical director by Ballistic United Soccer Club in Pleasanton.
Kellen has started in all five games for the Pioneers (1-2-2, 0-1-2 CCAA), playing 401 minutes. In the draw against Stanislaus, Crow and defender Paul Dewhurst held things together, blocking three scoring chances late in the second half.
Kevin Crow is not surprised by Kellen's smooth transition to college play.
"He's always been a smart player, kind of a tactically smart player," said Kevin Crow, who retired from playing in 1992. "He's a well-rounded player. He has a knack for fitting in wherever he plays, which is a compliment to him."
Cumbo, in his fourth season, believes his squad, buoyed by junior college transfers and foreign additions, is capable of earning a spot in the CCAA playoffs by placing in the top two of the North Division.
The Pioneers have a strong homegrown contingent. Sophomore Rey Suarez (Richmond) scored on a 20-yard shot in the final seconds of regulation play to tie Chico State 1-1. Dynamic Andres Ponce (San Lorenzo, Chabot) and Javier Martin (Mt. Eden) are solid playmakers. Freshman newcomer Duke Driggs (California) shows promise.
SPAGLE HITS LANDMARK: Pioneers women's volleyball coach Jim Spagle earned his 400th career victory and become the winningest coach in school history on Sept. 7 with a 3-0 victory over Academy of Art-San Francisco. The Pioneers are 1-3 since that victory, and Spagle, in his 17th season, has a 401-133 career record.
HAWKS TRIO SIGNS: Three former Las Positas men's basketball players have signed with four-year schools: Jarred Jourdan (Logan) with Division I Liberty University (Va.); Dwight Abad (Logan) with Bethany College (Kan.); and Ryan Hebebrand (Granada) with Cal State East Bay.