Jun 06, 2020

Home field advantage pays dividends

The Fresno State soccer team is riding an unbeaten streak at Bulldog Stadium as the ‘Dogs enter the home stretch of conference play before hosting the Western Athletic Conference Tournament from Nov. 3 through Nov. 6 at the new soccer and lacrosse stadium next door.

Fresno State is currently 2-1 and hosts Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State on Friday and Sunday, respectively. In the final home games before the WAC Tournament, the ‘Dogs will then travel to take on Nevada and Utah State in the week before the tournament in hopes of securing a spot as one of the top two seeded teams, which are given a bye heading into the semifinals.

Head coach Brian Zwaschka is confident that his squad will perform well since its record is unblemished at home so far with only half of the remaining games left inside Bulldog Stadium.

“I think when you mix in all the other variables for any team that’s traveling you should have some kind of advantage playing at home,” Zwaschka said of the current unbeaten streak at home.

Fresno State has played some tough opponents on the road this season in No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 21 Loyola Marymount, No. 4 UCLA and No. 8 Pepperdine that has translated into a 5-4-2 record. The ‘Dogs haven’t lost a game on the confines of Jim Sweeney Field and one of the advantages is the support the soccer team gets from the Bulldog faithful.

“We feel pretty lucky that we’ve got such a good home crowd,” Zwaschka said. “It’s that extra energy boost when the players need it. They’re always excited to play in front of their families and friends at home. They add that extra boost.”

The added motivation is what can potentially reserve the ‘Dogs a spot in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament.

This would be a return trip after Fresno State won the WAC Tournament last year and made it to the NCAA Tournament where it came up short against UCF, 2-1. With Fresno State having the WAC Tournament in a familiar environment, Zwaschka sees how important it is to win at home.

“Everybody likes to protect their house and we’re no different,” said Zwaschka. “We take each game one at a time. Try to figure out a way to put the best package on the field and throw everything we can at a visiting team so they never get comfortable.”

And the opposition has yet to get comfortable as the ‘Dogs are 1-0 in conference and 3-0-1 overall at Bulldog Stadium, including a tie against fifth-ranked Pepperdine on Sept. 25.

Leading the way is junior Callie Hancock, who has netted a team-high eight goals this season, including all four of the team’s past four goals.

Fresno State hopes to continue its unbeaten streak through the weekend behind Hancock and freshman goalkeeper Katie DeVault, who has recorded five shutouts for the Bulldogs.

The team is also celebrating Senior Night on Sunday for its final home game of the season. Seniors Laura Dodd, Molly Nizzoli, Rachel Pickett and Kendall VanDine will suit up in Bulldog red one last time inside Bulldog Stadium.

With four games remaining before the WAC Tournament, including their final two at home, Zwaschka and his team hope to finish out the season with a top seed for the tournament.

“Each game is going to have its own challenges and we’re going to take it one game at a time,” Zwaschka said.

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