Coming off three consecutive years in which it improved on its overall win total under fourth-year head coach Dave Siracusa, the 2007 San Jose State University women’s soccer team aims for a first winning season since 1999, a Western Athletic Conference title and subsequent NCAA postseason berth. To accomplish this, the Spartans will look toward the leadership of eight seniors on the roster, all eight of whom were members of Siracusa’s first freshman class in 2004.
Mixed in among the veteran leadership will be nine starters returning from 2006. The Spartans have posted a program-best league record of 4-2-1 in back-to-back seasons.
“I think expectations and excitement go hand in hand here,” says Siracusa. “We are really excited about my first graduating senior class for a couple of reasons. They are experienced and have had a lot of playing time. We also have a lot of talent there. This team in general is very experienced. We have depth at every position. It’s going to be fun.
“Our goal is always to make the NCAA Championship. We want a WAC title. Those are goals for every team. However, we are particularly anxious about the possibility of us getting there (this year).”
In Liz Behlen and Jessica Scott, San Jose State has its prolific pair of junior forwards back again in 2007. Behlen, who scored eight times on her way to WAC “Freshman of the Year” honors in 2005, tallied just one goal as a sophomore, but her value to the squad stretches beyond numbers.
Having found the back of the net 11 times since entering the program, Scott now boasts the most successful two-year period goals-wise since Karli Silveira scored 15 in 1999-2000. She has 115 shots already in her career.
“If Liz scores no goals this year, she could be the best player on our team,” states Siracusa. “She’s that kind of a player. She makes everybody around her better. Jessica is a proven goal-scorer, and we are looking for big things from her, too.”
Other Spartan options up top include tri-captain Heidi Romswinckel-Guise, fellow senior Kelly Madej, sophomore Roxy Kamal and top recruit Danielle Drago, a local freshman out of Saint Francis High School, where she played with Behlen.
Siracusa adds, “Heidi had a really good spring and scored a great goal against Santa Clara that gave her confidence. Roxy is a gifted forward. She can play with her back to goal and shoot with both feet. Among the newcomers, Danielle makes things happen when there is nothing, and I think that she is going to push for some minutes.”
A deep midfield starts with returning WAC “Offensive Player of the Year” Nicole Irwin, who collected eight goals and four assists during a highly-successful 2006 season.
“Nicole is going to have another great year, and we are looking forward to seeing her play (her senior season),” says Siracusa. “She has the ability to break defenses down on the dribble and combine with the forwards.”
Starting holding midfielders Jackie Zabek, a team tri-captain who excels in the air and can score goals on set pieces, and Jennifer Guadagnolo, a solid defensive player who has provided five goals at the college level, both return in 2007.
Continues Siracusa, “Jackie has been a starter for us for the better part of three years already. She’s one of our captains, and is a very simple, technical player. She wins almost every single ball in the air. We feel that Jenny is going to have a breakout year. She’s skilled, fast and quick.”
Hallsie Pacheco, a part-time starter as a freshman in 2006 who appeared in all 21 games, is back on the left side. The other outside midfielder on the right, may end up being handled by committee, with players like Erica Ng-Pinkerton, Kaila Waitley and redshirt freshmen Katie Bonadies and Mollyrose McBride among the options.
Fourth-year Spartan Tasha Van Dixhorn will see plenty of time primarily in the holding midfield spots, with Waitley, Lauren Moniz and redshirt freshman Mayra Cruz.
Expected to provide depth behind Irwin at the attacking central midfield position are Behlen, Kamal, Pacheco and Romswinckel-Guise. Other Spartans who will compete for playing time at the various midfield spots include Amanda Villa and incoming freshmen Lauren Ng-Pinkerton, the younger sister of Erica, and Stephanie Righetti, the niece of former pro baseball great Dave Righetti.
The defensive backline should feature a consistent look with all three starters returning in tri-captain Kristin Krale, Heather Oranje and Brittny Beshore. The trio started all 21 games a year ago.
Krale, in fact, has started all 61 games of her college career heading into her senior campaign, and excelled as a central defensive anchor after being moved there from outside midfield 13 games into the 2006 season.
“In my opinion, Kristin is the best defender in our conference,” says Siracusa. “She is smart, athletic and technical. She’s a leader.”
Oranje and Beshore will take their places on the right and left sides, respectively. Beshore was voted by teammates as the “Defensive Player of the Year” in 2006.
Players expected to provide depth on defense include Erica Ng-Pinkerton, a fourth-year Spartan, Waitley, redshirt freshmen Brittany Boehm and Natalie Malone, both of whom had solid springs, and incoming freshman Kim Johnston.
A group of four goalkeepers will be led by redshirt sophomore Marissa Dayton, who earned second-team All-WAC distinction in 2006 in her first year of collegiate competition. Dayton will be joined by newcomer Heather Emswiler, a two-time junior college All-American while at De Anza College, Nina Butera, a 2006 redshirt and product of Presentation High School, and spring walk-on Sarah Wisotsky.
“We have an all-conference goalkeeper back (in Marissa),” remarks Siracusa. “She had four shutouts in league play. We have a lot of talent (in goal), and I’m looking forward to seeing them in camp.
“Marissa is athletic, composed and technical in all facets of the game. She is good with the ball at her feet, and her goal kicks can travel 60 yards. The whole team plays better when she’s in the net.
“Heather is athletic, technical and vocal. Nina has no (Division I) game experience, but is equally athletic, and her distribution is really good. Sarah’s a hard-working, technical goalkeeper.”
The Spartans face a tough schedule in 2007 highlighted by 11 home contests, with four opponents that participated in the NCAA Championship a year ago and three each from the Big West and West Coast conferences.
“We have, in my opinion, a great schedule,” concludes Siracusa. “We are thrilled to be opening up against Santa Clara. Actually, we open up against two (West Coast Conference) opponents (with USF), which is a great way to start. We then go away for five games (around a home meeting with San Diego State).
“I think the WAC is getting stronger. Fresno State has a whole new team, but they have a good coach and will put a solid team on the field. Nevada and Hawai’i had great recruiting years, and Utah State is a really tough opponent on their own field, which is where we have them this year.”