Women’s soccer runs past San José State on Senior Day, wins third straight

Members+of+the+San+Diego+State+women%27s+soccer+team+celebrate+after+a+goal+during+the+Aztecs%27+3-0+win+over+San+Jos%C3%A9+State+on+March+29%2C+2021+at+the+SDSU+Sports+Deck.

Devin Whatley

Members of the San Diego State women’s soccer team celebrate after a goal during the Aztecs’ 3-0 win over San José State on March 29, 2021 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

by Devin Whatley, Arts & Culture Editor

When San Diego State women’s soccer and the San José State Spartans first met on March 12, the game ended in a complete 6-1 domination for the Scarlet and Black.

In the March 28 rematch, it was pretty much more of the same.

In their final regular-season home game at the SDSU Sports Deck, the Aztecs (6-1) beat SJSU 3-0, extending their winning streak to three games and keeping a commanding lead in the west division of the Mountain West Conference.

Amid the nearly 80-degree afternoon heat, head coach Mike Friesen said he expected the Spartans to play his team tougher compared to the first game, and he was satisfied with how they handled it.

“I thought we played well,” he said. “(Their performance) was gritty, in that it’s hot (on the field). With all the dry conditions here, I thought we got stuck on the ball a couple of times. We dealt with it pretty well and I think the way (San José State) played allowed us to keep the tempo a little bit slower, and, and try and find (opportunities to score) in behind them.”

The scoring began early and often for SDSU. In the 15th minute, sophomore defender Claire Watkins fired a ball up the field, connecting with junior midfielder Laura Fuentes outside the penalty box. 

Then, it was “Toohey Time” for the third straight game.

Fuentes found junior forward Anna Toohey for the goal, giving the Aztecs an early 1-0 lead.

It would be the North Carolina State transfer’s third goal in the past three games, and also her first of what would eventually be four shots. 

Five minutes later, SDSU found another goal-scoring opportunity within the Spartans’ defense.

In the 21st minute, freshman forward Emma Gaines-Ramos dribbled the ball at the midfield when Fuentes made a run in the middle of the field near the penalty area.

San Diego State women’s soccer junior forward Anna Toohey shoots the ball during the Aztecs’ 3-0 win over San José State on March 29, 2021, at the SDSU Sports Deck. (Devin Whatley)

She found Fuentes, who slammed in a shot for the goal to give the Aztecs a 2-0 lead they would keep heading into the break. 

“I was so glad (Toohey and Fuentes) scored early,” senior defender Sarah Broacha said. “The thing is too like we tend to let down after we score, so we’ve just been working on that, making sure we stay strong after. I think we’ve been doing well with that.”

At halftime, SDSU’s offensive showcase showed itself in the box score. The team held an 11-4 advantage in shots over SJSU and had a 5-3 advantage in corner kick opportunities.

The Spartans had a couple of chances to score early in the second half, but the Aztecs’ defense held tight, with Broacha contributing a few key blocks.

In the 50th minute, sophomore midfielder Kiera Utush took her first free-kick of the day. 

She took a breath, waited and hit the ball high…

High enough that it soared over the players and slammed into the net for a goal, giving the Aztecs a commanding 3-0 lead.

Utush’s teammates were at a loss for words over the shot and said it represents how well she’s performed in recent weeks. 

“It was insane,” senior forward Veronica Avalos said. “I think we were impressed. I mean, coming off the bench, it sometimes gets in people’s heads, but she’s just been performing well. 

“Did you see the curve of that (ball)? Wow, that was just pure, what is it – technique. I have no words.” 

Friesen echoed the same sentiment.

“You should have seen it from my side, it was beautiful,” he said. “What a finish.”

In total, the Aztecs finished the game with a 19-10 advantage over the Spartans in shots. Outside of Toohey, Fuentes had three shots on the day. Senior midfielder Chloe Frisch, senior forward Phoebe Leitch and sophomore forward Rachelle Elve had two shots each. 

Freshman goalkeeper Alexa Madueno also finished with three saves, as the SDSU defense shut out the Spartans.

“I wanted to get a shutout,” Broacha said. “(San José State) scored one goal against us the last time we played them, so (our mindset on defense) was like, ‘Hey, not today.’” 

Before the game, five seniors were honored as part of “Senior Day” with a special ceremony and flower bouquet. 

Broacha, Avalos, senior defender Phoebe Leitch, senior defender Jordan Girman and senior midfielder Chloe Frisch were all recognized for their four-year careers and contributions to the program.

For them, the emotions of playing their final home game motivated them, even more, to come out with a victory. 

San Diego State women’s soccer sophomore forward Rachelle Elve shields two San José State defenders during the Aztecs’ 3-0 win over the Spartans on March 29, 2021, at the SDSU Sports Deck. (Devin Whatley)

“We (seniors) had even a little talk beforehand, and I think that’s what got to us more was just like (Friesen) talking about what he loves about us and how we’ve helped the team,” Broacha said. “I think that was a really good realization and just put us in a good mindset to come out and want to win this.”

Avalos, who has been in the program since 2017, said she hasn’t experienced this much bonding and enjoyment playing for a team like this one compared to previous years.

“As a senior, I can say this is one of my favorite teams,” she said. “There’s something about this team that’s super special, and I feel like people should know that. It’s showing on the field clearly because we all understand each other, we’re hitting insane goals and we have a lot of different goal scorers. It’s cool to see this happening, especially for our last year.”

Up next…

On March 29, Toohey earned Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time this season. It comes after scoring three goals in the past three games.

The Aztecs head out on the road for three games against UNLV, Boise State and Nevada respectively to close out their regular season. All three teams have played SDSU at home and lost by close margins.

Even though the Scarlet and Black sit atop the west division at the moment, they are not taking any of these games as easy victories. Avalos said from this moment forward, a target is on their backs.

“I think we’ve already dominated every team we’re about to play but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to adjust and play better against us,” Avalos said. “I think every team is coming after us because they want to get that little push on us and make us fall. 

“We’re excited, we’re gonna concentrate and hopefully, put away each game and be ready for that (Mountain West) championship.”

Friesen said his main focus heading into this three-game road slate is to rest, prepare and work on improving some execution and attacking plays on the offensive side of the ball. 

“I think we’re going to make sure we recover, get ready for this weekend and then sharpen some things up,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of things well. I think we’re gonna have to be good at breaking up, down and playing quickly because (opposing teams) do a good job of getting numbers behind the ball, closing the middle of the field. 

“So we’re gonna have to be pretty good in the final third (of the field). I think that’s one of our weaknesses.”

SDSU will be head to Las Vegas this week to play the UNLV Rebels (4-2-1) on Saturday, April 3. The game will begin at 7 p.m.

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