For the first time in school history, the California State University, Stanislaus women's soccer team is in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Division II Championship after toppling Western Washington, 1-0, this past Saturday.
Just weeks before the season had even started there was nobody who was more confident in the team’s full potential than head coach Gabe Bolton.
Bolton knew what potential this squad had, despite losing the school's all-time leading scorer in Karenee Demery, and so far this year has already been an obvious example of that potential.
“We had to travel and play in 20 degrees on Thursday, and we played fantastic,” Bolton said. “There was a lot of pressure after coming back. Then we turned around and beat the nation’s No. 12 team (Western Washington) at their place on Saturday. They’ve stayed in the game and focused for two weeks not knowing their fate. That, to me, is the most impressive thing we’ve accomplished so far.”
Stanislaus (15-4-1) will now meet their familiar foe in California Collegiate Athletic Association rival Cal Poly Pomona at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.
The winner of this match will advance to the NCAA national quarterfinals and face South Central Region winner, either Colorado School of Mines or Texas A&M-Commerce at 3 p.m. Sunday MST. The winner will then advances to the semifinals and finals in Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 4 and 6.
Temperatures at the base of the Rocky Mountains are expected to be in the low 40s during the day and will drop as low as the 10s at night. By game time on Friday the temperature should be in the upper 30s, but no precipitation is in the forecast, for now.
“I think going into this game that it’s a real positive that we’ve already traveled to Washington,” Bolton said. “We’ve already seen the frigid temperatures, already been on turf, and both of those will repeat themselves in Colorado.”
The Warriors are among the nation's top scoring teams with a 2.17 goals per match and 40 goals total.
The team has blanked their foes 10 times in 2014, including three of the last four matches. Goalkeeper Chelsea Lewandowski has seven of those clean sheets with 17 in her career.
They are now 3-1-1 in five overtime matches in 2014. Thursday night's win was their second double-OT victory this season (Sonoma State, Oct. 5, 4-3). Over the last three seasons, the Warriors are 9-2-3 in extra time games.
The Warriors and the Broncos met back on Oct. 12 in Pomona with Cal Poly Pomona edging the Warriors, 1-0. Ali Sauve scored the lone goal. Pomona is 11-5-1 against the Warriors all-time.
Bolton is very confident that his Warriors may have the edge in the rematch. While the Broncos remained in balmy weather and had to travel all of 22 miles West on Interstate 10 for their first two rounds, Stanislaus had to travel to Washington to play in frigid weather and on artificial turf to win two games.
However, like the Warriors, Pomona boasts a strong offense with 34 goals this season. The Broncos also have the third best GAA among teams in the CCAA at 0.70, just 0.02 points behind Stanislaus.
“We’re a way different team now from the first time we played Pomona, as are they,” said Bolton. “I don’t think I’ll have to get our players’ attention. For one, we’re in the Sweet Sixteen, and two, we’re playing a conference rival who beat us the first time through.”
The Warriors have been extremely successful on the road in recent years. After last week's two wins on the road, they are now 24-3-4 over the last 31 matches, which dated back to the middle of the 2011 season.
CCAA foes Cal State Stanislaus and Cal Poly Pomona will meet in Golden, Colo., and square-off in a neutral site match on Friday to determine the 2014 West Region Championship.