Bob Groenendijk (far right) and Wouter Verstraaten (far left): a successful duo that you have probably read about before. Back in 2016, they became one of the first slamstox soccer players to leave for the USA. It is not without reason that a lot of articles was written about them by us, but also by others. They are best friends since they are only 7-years old and start playing at PSV where they went through the entire youth academy together. But they also went to high school together in Eindhoven, both started the same study at the university in Tilburg and finished that study together in the USA as student-athletes.
After a period of 30 years, the University of the Pacific decided in 2014 to restart the men’s soccer program. Coach Ryan Jordan, now head coach of the soccer team at UCLA, became the team’s head coach that year. It takes hard work to start from scratch. After the first two years, the team was ranked 198 (out of 208) and had won only 4 matches in total. Bob and Wouter joined the team in 2016, that year the team made the biggest turnaround in Men’s Soccer NCAA history.
And that turnaround was big: in 2015 only 1 match was won and 15 were lost. In 2016, the team won 13 matches, and lost only 4. Three years in a row the team came second in the West Coast Conference, which is why the team played at the NCAA National Championships three times in a row as well. An achievement that is unusual within the WCC conference: only Stanford managed to achieve this as well. Below you see a picture of Bob, Wouter and Pedro from Slamstox at the University of the Pacific.
Bob and Wouter both have degrees in Business & Administration in Finance. And they did not ‘just’ graduate, but they graduated summa cum laude. And as if they weren’t busy enough with academics and soccer, they were both part of the university’s Student Investment Fund. As analysts they joined this group of students and, among other activities, made a trip to Wall Street in New York. You can later read more about this at the part about ‘Academics’.
Why did former PSV-players choose for a soccer team that was ranked 198 of the 208 teams? Bob explains.
“I chose the University of the Pacific because I immediately had a good connection with coach Ryan. He is a very professional coach who, like me, saw a lot of perspective for the team. Before I made my choice, he visited me and my parents in the Netherlands and we sat around the kitchen table together. He told us this beautiful story that I really believed in. 1.5 months after I’d chosen for the Pacific, Wouter became enthusiastic as well, so I called Ryan that I knew about a good central defender for the team. Our ambition to take the team to a higher level was big. And as a team we have achieved a lot in those years, which makes the time extra good to look back on!
Where Bob goes, Wouter goes. And vice versa. After living in different places for 2 years, they shared a beer together this weekend in Durham, England. The place where Bob is currently pursuing a Masters degree and where Wouter, just 20 miles further north, joins the South Shields team as a professional soccer player.
So a lot has already been written about these talented boys, but in today’s spotlight we will mainly be talking about the former university of the soccer players. Because there is a lot good stuff to tell about the University of the Pacific as well. Want to know more? Keep reading!
The university of the pacific is a private university in Stockton with about 6,500 students. The campus is known as one of the most beautiful campuses in the USA because of its architecture. Do you remember the children’s movie ‘Flubber’? It was recorded on the UOP campus! UOP is also one of the oldest private universities in California. You can see part of the campus in the picture below.
The campus is located in Stockton, a city of nearly 250,000 inhabitants. There is not much to do in Stockton itself, the university is seen as the most beautiful must-see. What is most special about the town of Stockton is its location. The campus is located in the middle of California, which means that you are within a good driving distance of amazing cities, beautiful nature reserves and great beaches. California dreaming baby!!
For example, 1.5 hours from the campus of the pacific you will find the mountain area ‘Sierra Nevada’, of which Yosemite Park is part. Yosemite Park is considered one of the most beautiful national parks in the USA!
Also a 1.5-hour drive from campus is one of California’s most popular cities. And that’s San Francisco! A nice trip for student athletes who have a weekend off … But besides beautiful mountain areas and cool cities, the beach is also at good driving distance from campus, the nearest beach is Santa Cruz. And a day at the beach doesn’t sound wrong either, right? Check out the picture below of Bob, Wouter and the rest of the soccer team!
Of course we also take a look at the sports facilities on the UOP campus.
The ‘Bill Simoni Field’ is the home base for the softball team. It has been in use since 1993 and offers seating for 350 spectators. The field is named after loyal supporter Bill Simoni. You can see part of the field below.
The Pacific swimming and diving teams have achieved good results and are an important part of the university, their home base is the ‘Chris Kjeldsen Pool’. It is an outdoor pool since swimming outside all year won’t be a problem at UOP! The facility offers space for 1100 spectators!
The ‘Klein Family Field’, that is the name of the baseball field on campus. It was renovated and reopened in 2006 and can accommodate up to 2500 fans per match! Isn’t that crazy?
The ‘Knoles Field’ is the soccer field where the men’s and women’s soccer teams of the Pacific train and play their matches. You can see the field in the picture below. Officially there is seating for 560 spectators. When Bob and Wouter’s team participated in the NCAA Tournament in 2017, there were a total of 564 people watching on the side. So those 4 have somehow managed to place themselves somewhere in between 😉
Besides the facilities above, there is much more to explore at the University of the Pacific. Would you like to see more? Check out the around & about video below that Bob and Wouter made for us before!
The Pacific Tigers is what the group of student-athletes at the University of the Pacific is being called! In total, 7 men’s teams and 10 women’s teams compete for the university. All teams participate in Division I and are part of the West Coast Conference. Unlike many other universities, UOP has not had an American Football team since 1995.
The Pacific Tigers are encouraged by cheering squads, but also by their own mascot. And as in every university spotlight, we don’t want to pass the mascot! So please say hello to… Tommy the Tiger!
But also at the University of the Pacific, as we are used to in College Sports, a lot of fans come to cheer during matches. Together with Tommy and the cheerleaders they make a lot of noise along the sports fields, they do this by shouting ‘U-O-P’, but also by singing the fight song. Below is the chorus.
Come on you hungry tigers – fight- fight- fight
Let’s win the game you tigers – fight- fight- fight
See the tigers breaking through, After goals, we’ll get them too-
Fighting for UOP, We’re after victory!
In school history, the sports teams have won two NCAA National Titles in total, that was done twice by the Volleyball ladies! They even did that twice in a row, in 1985 and 1986. In total, the volleyball ladies participated no less than 24 times in the NCAA tournament. Performances to be proud of for the Tigers!
But as mentioned earlier, Bob and Wouter’s soccer team also achieved great success. They managed to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In all three years they came second in the conference, but they received a ticket for the NCAA tournament because of their great results on the field. At all NCAA appearances they managed to win the first round, but unfortunately lost during the second round. That happened twice in a row against Stanford, who eventually won the title.
The University of the Pacific has a number of special alumni to its name. But one of those special alumni is Tristan Blackmon. Tristan is a former teammate of Bob and Wouter and moved on to the MLS after his time as a student-athlete. He is part of LAFC, cool right? You can see a photo of Tristan in action below.
Want to see more about the Pacific Tigers? Check out the athletic website of the university or take a look at their Youtube channel.
As you can read, Bob and Wouter had success in school as well as on the soccer field. The University of the Pacific is highly regarded as an academic university and offers many different degree programs. You can find an overview of all courses that are offered here.
Something special about the University of the Pacific is the Student Investment Fund. That is a group of students who are allowed to manage investment money belonging to the school. Many universities have such a group, but usually not with that much (real) money. It is often ‘fake’ money, but that is not the case at UOP!
The Student Investment Fund manages no less than 4 million dollars! It once started as a $ 1 million gift from the Bank of Stockton. The (constantly changing) group of 12 boys and girls from the investment fund has managed to make that 4 million over the years! Awesome right?
If you want to be part of the Investment Fund as a student, you must apply for it. Everyone has their own role, Bob and Wouter were both analysts. The group often also makes fun and inspiring trips that are funded by the school. Bob and Wouter went with the rest of the students to New York for a week! They attended a conference and visited a number of companies on Wall Street. And the rest of the time? They could just do fun stuff! The week was filled with some good drinks and snacks, New York’s hotspots were visited and various basketball games were attended. Something about work hard, play hard .. right?
In the photo on the right you can see Bob along with two other students from the Investment Fund during their visit to New York!
Do you want to get to know more about these slamstox-soccer players? Check out our ‘Catching up with…’ video with Bob, or take a look at this video with Wouter about playing soccer and studying in the USA of read this article about Wouter’s soccer career in the UK after his time as student-athlete.
And did you start thinking: what Wouter and Bob did, I want to do that as well! Or do you have any questions? Reach out and we will help you!