The new soccer and lacrosse facility was finished just in time
for this weekend’s Western Athletic Conference soccer tournament.
Fresno State is the reigning WAC champion and now has a facility
to help it defend its title.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian
Fresno State’s soccer team hosts the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, which began on Thursday on its new soccer facility. This is the final year that the Bulldogs will compete in the WAC because they will make the move to the Mountain West Conference next season.
The Bulldogs are the reigning WAC Tournament champions and are looking to recapture the magic they had last year when they defeated San Jose State, 3-1, with a couple penalty kicks.
The penalty kick factor could also come into play again this postseason with the ‘Dogs having the ability to stretch games into overtime, something they did six times during the regular season. Five of the overtime games ended in ties after the games remained tied after double overtime. If a game goes that far in tournament play, penalty kicks will decide the winner.
Head coach Brian Zwaschka realizes that penalty kicks could decide Fresno State’s fate, but also recognizes the importance of having the home field advantage.
“We love playing in front of our home crowd,” Zwaschka said. “The very idea of knowing the bulk of the fan support will be a tremendous lift for the team.”
The Bulldogs will go into the tournament as the No. 2 seed behind only Utah State. With the second seed, Fresno State has a bye in the first round of the tournament. The ‘Dogs earned their seeding by going 3-1-1 in conference play and finished the season 10-4-5 overall.
Having the WAC Tournament in the Bulldogs’ back yard this year means a number of differences compared to previous years, as senior Laura Dodd pointed out.
“I think it’s huge,” Dodd said. “Usually this trip is so long. It’s nice to be more relaxed at home.”
The six-team tournament will be held at the new soccer and lacrosse facility near Bulldog Stadium. This will be the first event that will be held on the new field.
The ‘Dogs will find out if the new facility can provide the similar home field advantage that Bulldog Stadium has all season long as Fresno State went 4-0-2 at home.
With the WAC Tournament at home, it will be the final tournament for seniors Molly Nizzoli, Kendall VanDine, Rachel Pickett and Dodd.
“It’s exciting the tournament can be at our home field my last year,” Dodd said. “I’ll miss my teammates we built a pretty good friendship, with everyone.”
Their collegiate careers are not over yet and it might not be a quick exit in the tournament since no opponents have been able to play a game on the new surface before the tournament.
There are some differences between Bulldog Stadium and the soccer and lacrosse facility. The main difference is the new field is wider, which could benefit the Bulldogs’ style of play.
This could come in handy with first matches starting on Thursday at noon between No. 4 San Jose State and No. 5 Idaho. Fresno State will be paying close attention to the second game between No. 3 Hawaii and No. 6 New Mexico State with the winner moving on to face the ‘Dogs on Friday. Zwaschka gave some thoughts on WAC Tournament’s playing surface.
“It’s a great surface,” Zwaschka said. “We’re really proud of it.”