There is no doubt that the 2014 Stan State Warrior women's soccer team will go down in history after making a remarkable run in the NCAA Division II tournament.
Unable to eke out the victory in penalty kicks, the Warriors fell in the Elite Eight to Colorado School of Mines, after a powerful year that saw the team boasting an overall record of 16-4-2.
“Obviously we wish we could have gone into the final four,” said Warriors head coach Gabe Bolton. “I think we had a team good enough to win a National Championship last year, as well as the year before really, but we were really happy with our effort and I think this team has a chance to be very special as well.”
“It was exciting for the program,” Bolton said of the achievement.
The Warriors return their top three scorers from a year ago in Jade Poon (14), Kirsten Coleman (10) and Mikayla Clifford (7). Poon was tied for first place in goals scored in the California Collegiate Athletic Association for the 2014 year.
“The hardest thing to do in soccer is score a goal. That's why you see many one-goal games or no goals,” Bolton said. “So having that kind of experience back, and not only are they back but also young and will be here for a few years. It’s great seeing these players back and they look fantastic.”
This was an offense that notched 44 goals for the year and allowed only 14 behind the backstop that is goalkeeper Chelsea Lewandowski, who has been preparing for her final year a bit differently.
“I have been working on being stronger mentally. Sort of doing some self-mental meditation and knowing it’s my last year and needing to focus up. Mainly mental stuff,” Lewandowski said. “Obviously some physical stuff but making sure we communicate well with the back-line is big this year.”
Losing great players is never easy for a squad and the Warriors have some big shoes left to fill but Bolton is confident in this year's team, even after parting with stalwart defender Karli Nestler.
Nicole Bare or Jaycie Wildermuth will look to battle for that open spot.
Fresno State transfer Dani Rodrigues is already making waves and providing a spark for the team. Jordan Moineau is returning for the Warriors as an attacking midfielder. Add in Maryssa McDuffy and Sabrina Williamson as the attacking outside defenders, and the team is looking very solid.
To help assemble a sturdy defense the squad will rely heavily on defensive midfielder Shawna McLaughlin, who steps into the spot left by Lauren Thornton.
“She has done a phenomenal job and stepped in, really being an outstanding defensive midfielder,” said Bolton. “I think we will be ok because all of these girls are very good athletes and can fill any holes left.”
The Warriors are also #10 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason ranking.
“I think there is a lot more individual talent on this team and now we are able to explore what each player can do now,” Williamson said.
“For myself personally I want to communicate the best I can with my team and be fully engaged and full of support so they can reciprocate and be on one page the whole time,” said Lewandowski. “I expect ourselves to give 100 percent to one another and I think we can because this is the most motivated team I have ever seen, so should be really exciting.”
The Warriors first game of the season is scheduled to be against Azusa Pacific at home at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.