Despite losing key players from last yearâ€™s squad, the Fresno State womenâ€™s soccer team is hoping to build on its regular season conference title from last season.
Gone from last yearâ€™s team are leading scorer Antonea Lugo, three-time All-Western Athletic Conference (WAC) forward Cortney Sobrero, two-time WAC defensive player of the year Rochelle Jagdeo and two-time All-WAC goalkeeper Angie Larsen.
With six returning starters and eight seniors, coach Steve Springthorpe hopes the team can pull together and repeat as regular season champions.
â€œWe want to carry on and continue with the success we had last season,â€ Springthorpe said. â€œWe have some good leadership on this team. They work as a family, not individuals.â€
Last season, the Bulldogs went 13-5-3 including nine shutouts and an unbeaten season in the WAC (6-0-1). The Bulldogs even found themselves ranked in the Top 25 in the nation for several weeks.
After a loss to Nevada in a penalty kick shootout in the championship game of the WAC tournament, Fresno State did not receive an at-large bid in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, ending their season despite not giving up a single goal in their final eight games.
â€œIt was unfortunate that we didnâ€™t get a bid,â€ Springthorpe said of not making the NCAA tournament. â€œBut thereâ€™s nothing you can do about it when you donâ€™t win your conference tournament.â€
â€œWe left our destiny in the committeeâ€™s hands. Hopefully we can win the regular season and then the conference tournament and not be in that position.â€
Despite losing Lugo, the Bulldogs still have some key players returning on offense. Midfielder Alison Sill and forward Nicole Gutierrez both earned All-WAC honors last season.
Both juniors, Sill was named to the first team while Gutierrez made the second team.
But it is the mixture of old and new talent that will determine if Fresno State can be successful this season.
â€œWe have some good team chemistry,â€ Sill said. â€œWe have eight seniors on the team and I think weâ€™re still very skillful with the ball.â€
In Saturdayâ€™s final exhibition game before the regular season, Sill showed some of that skill. She scored the Bulldogsâ€™ lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Cal Poly from about 35 yards out, with a shot that went in the top right corner of the net in the 11th minute.
â€œWe lost some good goal scorers,â€ Sill said. â€œBut hopefully we can have some girls step up and score some goals too.â€
Last season, Gutierrez had four goals. Sill had two of her own while adding a team leading five assists.
Fresno Stateâ€™s season starts Friday at Bulldog Stadium, when they will host UC Irvine at 7 p.m.
After the season opener, the Bulldogs will be on the road for their next six games.
â€œOur non-conference schedule will get us ready for the conference,â€ Springthorpe said. â€œWe have some learning to do but I think weâ€™ll be able to find out who we are as a team once WAC play comes around.â€
Fresno State opens WAC play on Oct. 12 when they host San Jose State. The WAC tournament will be held at Boise State from Nov. 8-11.
â€œOur goal is to win conference,â€ Sill said. â€œWe want to continue a great season with an even better one.â€