Fresno State defender Ariana Holmes (24) keeps possession of the ball against Sacramento State forward Adaurie Dayak during the Bulldogs’ 2-1 loss to the Hornets on Sept. 21. Photo by Khlarissa Agee/The Collegian
By Trentyn Pues – Special to The Collegian
Despite strong leadership from the reigning Mountain West Coach of the Year Brian Zwaschka, the Fresno State women’s soccer team, 1-10 so far this season, has struggled to find wins.
“So far this season, we haven’t been getting the results that we would like,” Fresno State midfielder/forward Jaycee Bingham said. “We are a very good team but we just need to come together in game and start winning games.”
Bingham, who has scored six of the team’s 10 goals on the season, is the only remaining senior on a young Bulldogs team. This, she said, may be one of the reasons for the slow start.
“We have a very young team and it is all about learning how to play with each other,” she said.
It is a team that features 11 true freshman in a roster of 23 women. Zwaschka said the prevalence of youth on the team could be making it difficult to perform in the biggest moments.
“It’s a completely new experience for literally half of our team,” Zwaschka said. “We have a lot of new players. We have one senior, and there have definitely been moments where we’ve had flashes of brilliance from both and we’ve also shown that we lack experience and leadership at vital moments. It’s hurt us in terms of results.”
For Bingham, who has been a member of the Bulldogs soccer team for her entire four years in college, a 1-10 record is certainly uncharted territory. She came in as a freshman the same season that Zwaschka led the team to a second consecutive Western Athletic Conference Final and an 11-5-5 record.
In fact, Zwaschka has posted three winning seasons in his first five at Fresno State. He brought a proven track record of success and a strong knowledge of the game from previous stints at Cal and Texas Tech.
Zwaschka has also helped train and develop many players for international play including Iceland National Team veteran, Katrin Omarsdottir, as well as U.S. Women’s Full National Team forward, Alex Morgan. Those experiences, he said, have helped him as a coach.
“You have to find that middle ground of the context of the level your players are at and how do you get them to bridge that gap,” Zwaschka said. “I’m really lucky that I’ve gotten to work with some top-level players to have an understanding. Any of the players can tell you I don’t let any of them off the hook. I’m relentless about the details and that’s why. Because there is a difference and I don’t want to settle for being just average.”
Bingham said she believes Zwaschka is truly dedicated to the team’s success.
“Brian is a great coach,” Bingham said. “He gives us the tools we need to play together as a team, and then we get to take it from there. He cares about us and will do anything to help the team to get better.”
Sophomore Goalie Alyssa Wilson also said she believes this team has more to offer than it has shown.
“We have a team of individuals who are tough not only physically, but mentally,” Wilson said. “We never let a loss get us down, we only use it as a foundation to build upon. There will never be a situation that stops us from putting in full effort and encouraging one another.”
So there is optimism on the team that things can be turned around and it isn’t too late. Though the team has already experienced 10 losses, only two of them have been in Mountain West play. There are still nine games remaining on the conference slate, and a run would not be unheard of. Zwaschka said the team believes they can make it happen.
“I’ve seen teams that have losing records that don’t have any optimism, they don’t have any joy and I don’t feel like that’s the case here at all,” Zwaschka said. “We’re all frustrated, but when the frustration kind of couples itself with the idea that we know we can turn a corner and we know we’re doing enough good things and we’re learning. You know, there’s really an interesting sort of optimism. But we can’t just wait for it to happen. We have to make sure that we grow up and execute.”
Zwaschka’s Bulldogs just last year finished the season on an eight-game winning streak. Though no team is the same, Bingham believes this team has the opportunity to finish strong as well.
“I’m very confident in our team,” Bingham said. “I think that if we do the right things we will be able to turn this season around and end up finishing in a top spot.”
With strong leadership from the coach and Bingham as captain, there is a strong foundation on the team for success, as the younger players continue to develop chemistry and improve play. Zwaschka said the only way for the team to reach their goal is by focusing on the game directly ahead.
“No matter what, we take each game as it comes, because that’s the next one we have an opportunity to win,” Zwaschka said. “Of course if the rest falls into place in terms of having a really good run like last year, then of course we’ll be over the moon. It’s got to happen one game at a time, there’s no other way to treat it.