It would be tough not to pick the California State University, Stanislaus men's soccer team to go far this season as the Warriors team boasts a talented and experienced roster. The Warriors welcome back 10 of 11 starters from a team that made it to the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship game last season.
Heading into the 2015 season, head coach Dana Taylor and the Warriors are anxious for another run at the title.
“Over the last couple of years, our team has been fairly young and I think one of the positives is that now they are a much more mature team, an older team,” said Taylor. “That is the foundation, building upon last year. We have more depth than last year. We are solid.”
The team will rely on its veteran leadership to improve on last season's record of 4-5-2 in the CCAA and 6-8-6 overall.
“We have a lot of talent underneath,” Taylor said. “Those guys are learning what it takes to compete. You never want to say this is your year but when guys become seniors, these are the seniors that were freshmen in 2012 when we were the CCAA champions and now they are in a place to lead.”
Seven former players from Turlock or Pitman high schools make up this year's team with seniors Brady Taylor, Josue Barajas and Christian Madrigal. The team also boasts former Central Valley standouts Jose Ramirez and Gerardo Cazares, who should provide some great play for the Warriors in the midfield.
“What we're really working with is that championship teams have great defenses and right now I don't see that in our group and we have the same group back,” said Taylor. “So again, it’s our mentality that has to shift; it’s not right. We need to spend more time defending.”
Last year the Warriors defense allowed 17 goals for the season in 20 contests, including nine clean sheets. It's not just defense that the Warriors need to improve on this season, however.
“Over the last few years, one of our problems has been lack of ability to score,” said Taylor.
To assist, Taylor brought in University of Vermont transfer Daniel Kuczynski, with hopes of adding some scores to the mix.
“The big thing is Daniel [Kuczynski] right now. He is the guy that we're really counting on to score some goals but he is not eligible yet due to NCAA transfer rules,” Taylor said. “But if he becomes eligible then we are going to have a very strong team.”
The team won't know if Kuczynski is eligible until the end of the week or just before the season begins. The transfer is not Taylor's only weapon.
“We are a deep team, we just have to put it together fast,” Taylor added.
The Warriors already have two scrimmages under their belt, facing Menlo College and a combination super team of the Burlingame Dragons and Fresno Fuego teams.
“We can't say the results because they are just scrimmages, but we did well,” Taylor said. “We got exposed in one and now know what we need to work on.”
The Warriors opening game of the season will be at home against the Academy of Art at 2 p.m. Sept. 3.