San Jose, Calif. - The San Jose State University women's soccer program is past the halfway point of its pre-season training camp, now just over one full week away from the start of its 2009 campaign against South Bay rival Santa Clara on Friday, August 21.
Kick-off that night for the first San Jose State sporting event on the brand-new FieldTurf inside Spartan Stadium, is set for 7:00 p.m.
Individual game tickets for Spartan Soccer go on sale on Monday, August 17. Prices are $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for youth aged 12 and under, and $1.00 for youth in soccer jerseys. San Jose State students, as always, can attend all matches free of charge with a valid Tower ID card. Groups of 20 or more receive a discount. Gates open one hour prior to the start of a match.
The Spartans had 28 players report, including 16 returning letterwinners, all but one starter from a year ago, and 10 newcomers, on Tuesday, August 4. They began training with a pair of fitness-heavy practices the following day, before holding three-a-day practices the next two days. After four straight double days, San Jose State had one morning session on Wednesday, August 12, before head coach Jeff Leightman gave the squad the afternoon off, for a team activity in Aptos, Calif.
After taking the morning off on Thursday, August 13, the Spartans held one session later on a perfect California summer evening. It featured defensive training, short-sided eight-versus-eight game drills after splitting up into three teams, and a full-field 11-on-11 scrimmage to close.
San Jose State is expected to train twice daily through the weekend, before scaling back to single sessions heading into its final week of the pre-season, awaiting the perennial powerhouse Broncos from Santa Clara.
Following their opener, the Spartans will train on both days that weekend, with the annual Student-Athlete Orientation set for Sunday evening, August 23, on campus. The team will have the next day off as SJSU instruction begins on Monday, August 24.
Leightman offered some insight toward how training has gone to date.
"I think things are going pretty well," said the second-year Spartan leader. "Obviously, any pre-season, you get a bit nicked up. Players are tired, but they are coming together as a team, and I think soccer-wise, we are playing better soccer than I've seen here yet. Certainly, there's no comparison to last year, and even much, much better in quality of play than in the spring. We're more athletic as a team now. Our spirits are better, and we are playing a better brand of soccer.
"We still need to work on some things going into next week, but I'm very pleased so far. It looks like there is some quality out there. Our style of play is much better, and we're excited about the start of our season.
"Opening up with Santa Clara, a local rival and a top-25 team, is always a formidable challenge," added Leightman about what lies ahead. "I think we're up to it. We had a good match with them in the spring (a 2-1 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium on a late own goal after the Spartans had taken a 1-0 first-half lead on an Emmy Belding goal from a Roxy Kamal free kick). They are a quality opponent who we have a lot of respect for, but we're going to go out and play, and it's going to tell us exactly what our strengths and weaknesses are right away.
"We've gotten a lot better, and can really challenge them now, versus last year where I thought we just had to sit in a bit. They're a top-quality side. There's a reason why they have won a national championship (2001) and been to many (College Cups). We do respect them like crazy, but we have to come out and show what we're about now. This is a new era in Spartan Soccer. What we have to do is play our part and keep getting better, understanding also that this is an opening match. It's our home opener, it's the opener of the season, and we want to set the tone for the season, but it's not the whole season. We need to come out and play, show up and do well. I think we will. We certainly recognize that we're playing against a top-quality opponent, which is exciting also."