The two lone Aztec seniors embrace their struggles and leadership

Tevenn+Roux+%28left%29+and+Laukoa+Santos+%28right%29+at+a+2021+U23+Portland+Timbers+summer+season+match+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Roux+and+Santos%29.

Courtesy of Tevenn Roux and Laukoa Santos

Tevenn Roux (left) and Laukoa Santos (right) at a 2021 U23 Portland Timbers summer season match (Photo Courtesy of Roux and Santos).

by Juan Daniel Avila, Senior Staff Writer

San Diego State men’s soccer striker Tevenn Roux and right wing-back Laukoa Santos sit in their dressing room, suited up in a Scarlet and Black Nike uniform. Roux wears the all-black Nike Mercurial Superfly cleats while Santos wears all-white Nike Mercurial Superfly cleats with the black swoosh. 

They sit together on game days. Right before they warm up, they watch throwback highlights of Arsenal, back when the Gunners’ former manager Arsène Wenger arguably dominated the Premier League. Once the highlights are over, the two seniors lead the Aztecs to battle at the SDSU Sports Deck.

On the night before each home game, Roux said he likes to go out to eat pasta in Lupi — a restaurant in La Jolla. Santos likes to fuel up with a homemade rice bowl with ground sausage or ground beef mixed in with an avocado. 

Before each game, Roux envisions his scoring opportunities while he waits for the whistle to blow. Santos always takes some time before every game to have a special moment with his brother who passed away a couple of years ago.

These are just some game traditions each young man has prior to game time.

Over the past four years, Santos and Roux have struggled to gain momentum with the Aztec men’s soccer program, resulting in several losing seasons. However, they have embraced their challenges as they pursue their first winning season in nearly a decade. 

This year, the Aztecs have had success as they have broken records of being undefeated at home in eight straight matches for the first time since 2005. Still, the seniors hold the same goal of making the NCAA tournament this year.

“Tevenn and I kinda learned the hard way through a lot of things in this program and I think that’s what’s made us who we are today,” Santos said. “I wouldn’t change a thing from a value of having a losing team for the past three years to what we have now. It just goes to show the growth of this program and the growth of us as leaders and the older guys on this team.”

The two seniors have both displayed genuine care for their teammates on and off the pitch, giving them a leadership role on the squad.

“Some of the younger guys have noticed our love and care and our willingness to do whatever it is for the team,” Santos said. “This season really means a lot to us and the guys have really noticed that we want to get to that tournament [NCAA].”

Head coach Ryan Hopkins said the personality of his two oldest players stands out. 

“Tevenn has a sophistication that is mature beyond his years. He has genuine care for each individual on the team and cares about their success on and off the field,” Hopkins said. “Koa (Santos) is an absolute warrior who plays with a blue-collar mindset. Each and every game he puts in an average of 11 miles of running, which is an insane number to think about. He is a vocal leader as well that trains and plays with a professional mindset.” 

Santos and Roux agreed and said their success has come from the coaching staff.

“Coach has brought in good players: Guys that have good mentalities and everyone just works hard and blends together,” Roux said. “Everyone wants to win, everyone wants to fight to win.”

“The coaching staff should get a lot of credit. The guys that they brought in fits the system that Hopkins wants to play,” Santos said. “More importantly, it’s the belief. The belief that we are good enough to compete in this conference.”

The striker and full-back also talked about their favorite memories of playing as an Aztec.

“The Stanford goal recently was a great memory for me. All my family was there. Game-winning goal against Stanford,” Roux said. “But one that I will always remember — was my first time starting against Washington —  I had a really good game. I didn’t score or have any assists, but it was just an amazing feeling.”

For Santos, it was his first collegiate goal.

“There has been a lot of good memories, but if I had to pick one, it would be my first collegiate goal against UNLV,” Santos said. “It ended up being the game-winner. There were a lot of my friends there that I considered family. It was just a special night. I mean, to have your first goal be the winning goal, is for sure something special.”

Now that the seniors are preparing to graduate, they have been planning what is going to come next for them in their lives.

Roux is a social science major and is planning to play at the professional level or get a real estate license.

While Santos said he is currently exploring his opportunities with some USL League One teams. He is also currently planning to work for a commercial real estate firm in brokerage and plans to be licensed in both Hawaii and California.

Their last wish as Aztecs is to see as many fans as possible in these last three crucial games.

“Come out to our last three home games. We are unbeaten at home and it would just be great to have a big crowd for our last games, especially against UCLA,” Santos said. “I think that regardless of the result these last couple games. It will be special for us two individuals and for the team. You never know how a future season will go. This is a chance that you don’t get every day.”