A native of Spain, Cortell was a foreign-exchange student in Colorado in his junior year of high school, then spent his senior year living in Ohio.
His exposure in the Buckeye State led to a track and field scholarship to Findlay University, and it wasn't until a torn quadriceps injury derailed his running career that he even thought of soccer as an option.
"I asked the soccer coach to please let me play on the team," Cortell said. "At that point my track career was over, and since I was from Spain so I figured I could play soccer. The coach at Findlay treated me really well. I played for four years and he gave me a chance to get my master's [degree] and become a [graduate assistant]. I didn't think about being a coach, but after seeing the difference you can make on students, I started."
Cortell was an assistant at Findlay for four years and then at Tiffin for three until Pergolizzi reached out in a desperate situation.
"I was lucky enough that Mr. Pergolizzi offered me a job here," Cortell said. "The coach here quit 10 days before the season started and I was just the interim coach at the time. I'm really lucky he gave me a chance."
After adapting on the fly in his first year, the Golden Bears posted a 10-5-3 record last season, accounting for the best winning percentage in a season in school history. This year, Tech looks poised to do much bigger things, with a berth into the USCAA postseason as the main goal.
"[Cortell]'s in his third year of coaching and there's no question that the program has improved steadily in each year of his tenure," Pergolizzi said. "In the first year he didn't even start until July 1, so he was playing with what was dealt him. Last year he had very solid season, and it looks like this season is going to be even better. He's done a great job and recruited good, young men to campus."
One such player, Rodrigo Manzanares, a civil engineering major from Argentina, was named the USCAA's men's player of the week on Sept. 4 and leads Tech with nine goals on the season.
But Cortell and Pergolizzi have shaped the program once held together by duct tape and bandages into something that reaches beyond wins and losses, statistics or championships.
Both hope the team will mean more to a school and community that his been hit hard in recent times. With its current success, heads may be slowly turning in soccer's direction.
"The soccer players go to every event and genuinely care about all of our teams," Cortell said. "We're nowhere near done. As coaches, trainers and players we've just got to be there for each other through tough times, and I think we can keep getting some wins.
"We're laying the foundation for us to continue to be successful. While it's still too early to say we're doing well, I think our players are doing a great job."
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.