Win the California Collegiate Athletic Association men’s soccer championship. Check. Win the first National Collegiate Athletic Association playoff game in school history. Check. The 2012 season was a flourishing year for the CSU Stanislaus Warriors men’s soccer team, including a step forward into what head coach Dana Taylor says to be the toughest and most competitive conference in the U.S.
“2012 was obviously a banner year for the program. I’m starting my fifth year and I think we have come a long way; it was a stepping stone, especially playing in CCAA, which is the number one conference in the country,” Taylor said.
Expectations of a repeat and perhaps a NCAA title are in the air and the Warriors know the road will be rocky to another successful campaign, especially after a 12-5-3 record last year that included five clean sheets for the Stanislaus men’s soccer team that graduated seven starting seniors.
“We’d like to build off our success from the year before and our style continues to evolve and change from year to year,” Taylor said. “We are looking at this year slightly contrasting as we have a different target on the front and in the back of us. Every team is going to play us harder because we were the champs, doesn’t matter because they are not looking at who graduated; they just know that we won conference last year. Every game for us is going to be that much harder this year.”
With only one senior in this year’s squad, including 12 incoming freshman, Taylor is looking to find leadership from his younger guys such as juniors Carlos Gavino, left back Julian O’Dell, and goalkeeper Clint Long.
Junior and co-captain Gavino will be one of this year's leaders after he finished the final four games last year with three goals and an assist, averaging 74.5 minutes per game as only a sophomore. Long’s tremendous goalkeeping abilities along with O’Dell’s presence on defense, will help solidify one of the younger teams in the CCAA.
“One of the biggest obstacles this year is the lack of senior class, which can result in a lack of leadership,” Taylor said. “I just want my players to know the coaching points and the upper classmen to bring everybody around them together and make the level of play higher and constantly getting more out of my captains to change that vacuum of senior leadership and putting it on my new captains and getting them to lead the team.”
Coach Taylor knows after finishing the previous year in the round of 16, most teams, especially in their conference, will not take them lightly; considering the top four teams did not lose more than three games, and won at least nine during the season.
“Every detail I am getting on them. It’s the small details not the small things that make a difference in getting the ball in the back of the net. So our focus is learning how to evolve this season with the players we have and moving forward,” Taylor said.
Turlock natives playing for the Warriors this season are freshman Danny Valenzuela, sophomore Brady Taylor, Josue Barajas, Jose Ortega, and Christian Madrigal.
The first game for the Warriors will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at home against Corban University.