The men’s soccer team from California State University, Stanislaus has been on the rise ever since head coach Dana Taylor stepped on to the pitch, amassing over 10-win seasons since 2009, including a conference title in 2012 and an NCAA tournament berth.
After losing nine of its 11 starters from that magical 2012 roster, 2013 proved to be a rebuilding year for Taylor who needed to add young players on to the starting roles early on, but as the year progressed the team saw major improvements.
Despite the big turnaround near the end of the season, along with close games, the Warriors only managed to come away with an 8-9-1 record, 7-9 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, which was not good enough for a postseason berth but this year should be different with a more experienced team.
“We had a very good team, but were super young,” Taylor said. “Last year was a rebuilding year and I was extremely pleased with the way our boys competed and our style of play. We really put the ball on the ground and we brought in a strong group of players with guys that competed.”
Five freshman, three sophomores, two juniors and one senior made up the 2013 Warriors squad, but now the team returns with a mature look to the squad.
“In the past it’s been about building this program to the level where now we are hoping to put a team on the field that other teams must adapt to us rather than in the past we adapt to the opponents,” Taylor said.
The offense struggled in 2013 to score, notching only 24 goals, while the defense played as tough as they could, yet allowed 27 goals in 18 matches.
Seventeen of the opponents goals were scored in the second half, while the Warriors outscored opponents in the first half 11-8.
“We found ourselves in a lot of overtime games and found ourselves in situations where we were losing in the last 10-15 minutes,” said Taylor. “It goes back to youth, size and strength and what you gain as you become a senior and junior.”
The youth was a problem but now in 2014, Taylor returns 10 of 11 starters from the 2013 year and things look to be shaping up nicely for the Warrior squad.
“Basis is we return 10 starters and we have gotten some really good players underneath to help give us some depth and should be in every game,” Taylor said.
Taylor does not like to single out any individual players because he believes a true team that will go out and compete must be exactly that—a team.
“I think people have seen that it’s not about standout players,” said Taylor. “Standout players give standout moments and I build a team that can bend but not break and I rely on a complete team approach where everyone is as important as the next. It’s what we learned last year.”
Returning to the grand stage of the postseason won’t be easy in the California Collegiate Athletic Association especially with the regular season change of adding on seven non-conference matches as opposed to only two to three from previous years.
Taylor believes that facing different and tougher opponents from a wide range of conferences will provide his team with the much needed practice to progress drastically as the year goes on.
“Our goal is to get to the CCAA tournament. We scheduled harder teams now as well,” Taylor said. “The goal is to open ourselves up into greater comparison with other conferences in the region.”
The program is already amongst one of the best in the state for Division II and just soccer in general and Taylor strongly believes that this team can make a deep push for the postseason.
“Hopefully all is in place to be a team that brings a consistency and confidence and a team that understands each other’s ability, strengths and weaknesses, and can play any way regardless of opponents were facing,” Taylor said.
Practice and camp opens Aug. 15 and the first practice is set for Aug. 16.