The Daily Aztec

Mentality the key for Aztec women’s soccer in 2015

Meghan McCarron

by Brandon Truffa, Staff Writer

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As the World Cup champion United States women’s national soccer team brushes the confetti off of its shoulders and polishes its coveted trophy in preparation to parade it across the nation, the San Diego State women’s soccer team is polishing its cleats and dusting off its kits for the 2015 campaign.

Coming off a 2014 season in which SDSU finished 15-5-2 and won a third straight Mountain West regular-season and tournament title, the Aztecs are looking to take the next step: a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

The past two seasons have seen the Aztecs eliminated from the NCAA Women’s College Cup in just the first round. In 2013, they fell 3-0 to No. 2 UCLA and in 2014, they lost to California 3-2 in extra time.

But a new year and a fresh start are on the horizon.

After spending the summer watching stars like Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Abby Wambach reach the top of their mountain, SDSU is looking to do the same. Head coach Mike Friesen, who served as a World Cup analyst over the summer at Fox 5 San Diego, spoke about how the mentality of the USWNT has inspired his players.

“One of the things we’re taking away from the U.S. winning is the mentality they had,” Friesen said. “Their mentality really carried them through, and that kind of pushed them over the top toward the end of the tournament.”

Fans got to see the first glimpse of the 2015 squad under the lights last Friday when SDSU took the pitch for a friendly against Long Beach State University. The Aztecs won 1-0.

Junior midfielder Victoria Barba netted the lone goal of the match on a penalty kick in the 60th minute. It was her first appearance since suffering a torn labrum in her hip early last season.

Following the match, Barba had a hard time describing her feelings of playing again.

“Honestly, I don’t have any words for it because I’m just glad I’m able to play again,” Barba said.

The friendly gave Friesen an opportunity to pinpoint the team’s strengths, as well as the areas it needs to improve upon.

“We feel really good about where we’re at. This is a very, very talented team with a lot of new pieces, especially in the midfield,” Friesen said.

The new faces include transfers Hedda Regefalk from Cal State Bakersfield, and Gemma Craine from Monroe College in New York.

Friesen was also excited about two new freshmen: forward Leah Pruitt, who was all over the pitch Friday, and utility player Milan Moses.

“I thought Leah Pruitt, tonight, was the best player on the field,” Friesen said. “We’re excited about her and Milan Moses.”

The friendly also brought out a few concerns for SDSU heading into the season. Friesen pointed out how the team needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’ve got to clean some things up on the defensive side, and just have a little more of the grit and the mentality to defend,,” he said. “If we can do those things, we can erase those concerns.”

As far as taking the next step in the national tournament, Friesen believes the Aztecs will have to perform well in the early stages of the season.

The Aztecs will face University of Kentucky, Arizona State University and the team that ended their national title dream last season, Cal, all on the road.

Friesen believes that his team will have to win these key non-conference games, as well as games within the conference, in order to propel themselves to the next level.

“We’ve got a very difficult schedule, a lot of games on the road, but if we can get victories out of some of those games, and do very well in conference, it’s going to put us in a position where we can … not have an early game in the NCAA tournament against an extremely difficult opponent,” Friesen said.

The Aztecs will kick off their regular season against Utah Valley University at the SDSU Sports Desk on Aug. 21 at 7 p.m.

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