On the first day of practice this week, Cal State Stanislaus women’s soccer coach Gabriel Bolton noticed something he had never seen before during his 10 years at the program.
None of his Warriors were huffing or puffing.
Instead, every player sprinted after every whistle and every time they were instructed to do something, they executed it.
“We’re fit,” said forward Briana McClain, who sat out last year due to an injury, “which is huge for us. That’s something we usually don’t have.”
For Bolton, it’s nice to hear. With the first game on Sept. 2 against Fresno Pacific, the coach and his Warriors aren’t spending too much time trying to get in shape. He said the seniors took it upon themselves to get together for offseason workouts.
And now, they can just focus on soccer.
“By far, this has been our best preseason ever,” said Bolton, who is responsible for turning around one of the worst programs in NCAA into a success one after he was hired in 2001. “The players came back in shape, they worked really hard over the summer and you can just tell they put in the dedication that’s required to be fit on the first day. It really has impacted everything that we do. We’re so much further along than we have ever been. You don’t have to worry much about conditioning. It’s been a big step for the program.”
And there’s pressure to be successful this season. The Warriors have six seniors, with all of them expected to start. The Warriors will once again host the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships at Warriors Stadium in early November, and they hope this time they can secure one of the four elusive spots.
“That’s a realistic goal for us,” Bolton said. “We’re going to battle for one of the four spots to get into the conference tournament. I’m confident that we can do it. Having the conference tournament here is a motivation for us and if we get there, we have a few advantages, too.”
The Warriors also return 10 starters, a number that indicates experience.
Even with all the goals they’ve set, not everyone expects them to do well.
The preseason coaches poll indicates that the Warriors are destined to finish fifth in the CCAA North Division, in addition to not making it as conference tournament participants. This comes after Stanislaus wrapped up the 2009 season with a 6-9-1 conference record, though a number of the losses were very close.
“I felt like last year we played really well, but we just came up unlucky in some of the games,” said forward Lisa Garcia, who was an all-CCAA player last season after notching a league-leading 11 goals. “So this year, we have desire. We know how it feels to be right there and not win. So we’re ready to push forward and win.”
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