The Fresno State soccer team huddles up before the Sept. 6 match against Cal Poly at the Soccer and Lacrosse Field. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian)
After a 1-6 start, the Fresno State soccer team will now enter Mountain West Conference play.
Fresno State finished 10th in the Mountain West in 2014 with a record of 4-16 in league play. A panel of Mountain West coaches has picked the ‘Dogs to once again finish 10th within the conference, but this isn’t a shocker to coach Brian Zwaschka.
“We know that we underachieved last year,” Zwaschka said. “It’s up to us to take that as motivation and to adjust the necessary things to move up that ranking.”
Fresno State will be put to the test in the Mountain West it faces some of their top rivals like San Diego State, Colorado College and Wyoming.
The San Diego State Aztecs (3-2-0), who finished 9-2-0 in conference play last season, were chosen to win the Mountain West. The Aztecs defeated the ‘Dogs last season by the score of 4-2.
San Diego State has had three-straight NCAA tournament appearances, and the Aztecs look to make it four straight.
Some of the Aztecs the ‘Dogs must keep an eye out for on the field are sophomore forward Aliyah Utush (six goals, two assists, 14 points) and senior defender Meggie Gulczynski (three goals, four assists, 10 points).
Colorado College finished second within the Mountain West coaches’ poll with 109 first-place points. The Tigers, however, have gotten off to a slow start with a record of 1-5-1 with their only win coming from the their first game of the season against Northern Colorado.
Last season, the Tigers finished fourth in conference with a record of 7-3-1 and an overall mark of 12-5-4. In the 2014 season, the Tigers beat the ‘Dogs 2-1.
The Tigers have six starters returning. Among those are senior midfielders Sarah Schweiss and Alexis Long. Schweiss finished with four assists and 10 goals for a total of 24 points. Long had two assists, two goals and was credited with six points last season.
Finishing third in the poll is Wyoming with 96 points. Last season, the Cowgirls had a conference record of 8-3-0 and an overall mark of 11-9-1. Wyoming has eight returning starters back for the 2015 season.
The Cowgirls’ sophomore Kaitlyn Lomsnes won Mountain West Freshman of the Year and took home the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year as well. In her first season at Wyoming, Lomsnes recorded four assists, 10 goals and 24 points.
Last season the ‘Dogs were shoutout at home by the Cowgirls (2-0), with Lomsnes scoring both of Wyoming’s goals.
The Bulldogs have 10 sophomores returning from last year’s team. ‘The ‘Dogs have added six newcomers, including three international players: Marina Kerrache from France, Olivia Muhrbeck from Sweden and freshman Marie Berwinkel-Kottmann from Germany.
They join international senior Fanny Johansson from Sweden. Johansson, who is in her final year with the ‘Dogs, said the team has one main goal this season.
“Definitely to win the Mountain West. It’s just about taking it one game at a time and focusing on details,” said Johansson. “I definitely think we can accomplish that this year. We have a strong team, and our leaders are stepping up.”
Some other notable teams the Bulldogs will face are New Mexico (2-5-0), Utah State (4-3-1) – that tied in the poll with 82 first-place votes – and Boise State (1-4-2), which received 81 first-place votes.
The ‘Dogs’ first conference game will be on Sept. 25 against Colorado State (2-4-1). The Rams finished 11th in conference standings last season and beat the ‘Dogs 4-2.