There will not be another season like 2016 for the Cal State Stanislaus women's soccer team and that is mainly due to the handful of native soccer studs who decided to embark on their collegiate careers at their hometown university.
For Rayana Plancarte (Pitman), Kinsey Pettigrew (Hilmar) and sisters Nicole and Natalie Larson (Turlock) it was almost a no brainer in choosing Stanislaus above all other options. Staying at home and building that family environment was a big reason why.
“I think we can put a team out on the field just from Turlock, home grown, or travel teams we produce,” said Nicole Larson. “I get pride as well because all my family is able to come out and watch me and it is really cool to see them since it can really get me going and I think it is only going to grow.”
“I think the small town vibe brings us closer, we are small town people and the community is a big factor as well,” said Pettigrew. “We know most people in the stands and we wouldn't have that many people in the stands if we weren't from here. It brings a lot of support and we love it.”
It also helps that three of the four natives are only freshmen and still have the remainder of their first season and three more years left with the Warriors.
“There is definitely a strength for years to come,” said Nicole Larson, who is the only senior of the four.
Natalie Larson, Pettigrew and Plancarte are all freshmen but each took a different route to get where they are now.
Natalie Larson was able to redshirt last season after not feeling fully prepared to travel and be on the roster and found motivation to better herself to be able to get on the roster with her sister Nicole.
Redshirting is when a college athlete is withdrawn from college sporting events during one year in order to develop skills and extend the period of playing eligibility by a further year at this level of competition.
“Last year I redshirted and this year I was traveling with the team for the first time so it just shows when you put in hard work, you will get a chance at something at some point,” said Natalie. “I just need to keep working, since I will get there eventually.”
With it being her sister's final season as a Warrior, Natalie emphasized that one of her goals before the season ends is to take the pitch with her sister.
“My sister and I have been best friends since day one,” said Natalie of Nicole. “So it's great to have her be a part of my college experience. It's one of the best gifts I could ever ask for, I am just very blessed.. I want to be able to play in a college game with my sister but it's great to just say we are on the same team.”
A very young team.
In fact, there are a total of 16 freshmen out of the 35 student-athletes on the roster. A total of 14 are sophomores and juniors while only five are seniors.
Former Pride star and true freshman Plancarte has started all seven games thus far while teammate Pettigrew was able to benefit from redshirting, however, hers was a medical redshirt after the former Yellowjacket was forced to get surgery on both wrists.
“It was hard for me to redshirt, but I learned a lot because I was basically watching the entire time and it was really helpful,” said Pettigrew. “I know redshirt might sound bad but it was really helpful honestly. Everything is perfect now with my wrists.”
It has shown, after Pettigrew has been consistently in the rotation for the Warriors and head coach Gabe Bolton, which has made things easier.
“Kinsey is a utility player, if you asked what position she said, she could list four of them, she comes off the bench and plays all over,” said Nicole of Pettigrew. “She knows what she is doing. She is a great asset. When you have a utility player as a team you utilize that and she is for sure one of those players."
Pettigrew has now played in all of the team's first seven games along with Plancarte and Nicole. Pettigrew scored in the Warriors' 4-0 romping over Southern Oregon back on Sept. 11.
Since then, they have been shutout in their first two league contests and have a 5-2 overall record, including winning their first five pre-league games.
“We just need to work hard and anything can happen in conference. Started off 5-0, and had a rough start to league but I think we will pick it up,” said Pettigrew.
“Having played together before, obviously its gives us an advantage, but to officially be on the same team, I honestly do think it gives us an advantage against other teams,” said Plancarte. “We already built that bond which we know what one is thinking before we react, we are on the same page.”
The sky is the limit for this year's Warriors, which should only improve as the year wears on as the team is confident in their capabilities.
“I think we can win it all,” Plancarte added. “But coach said that it will take a lot of hard work and effort, and I think we have it and want it and I think we have plenty of girls with great skills, the level is better and anything is possible we just have to go out and get it.”