Women’s soccer ends 5-game losing streak on Denise Castro hat trick, beat USD 3-0


Denise Castro (11) fields the ball during a match against Army West Point (Courtesy of SDSU Athletics)

by Morgan Prickett, Contributor

The San Diego State Aztecs (2-5-0) defeated the University of San Diego Toreros (4-2-0) 3-0 Friday night on the back of freshman Denise Castro’s hat trick.

After suffering defeat in their last five games, the Aztecs came into Torero Stadium looking to bounce back with a strong performance, and bounce back they did.

SDSU’s previous matchup against USD took place in September 2019 when a 78th-minute goal gave the Toreros a 1-0 victory.

The Toreros started the game on the front foot and looked to be the more dangerous side.

The first shot of the game came in just the second minute when junior Aztec defender Kiera Utush fouled USD junior defender Malia Walencewicz 25-yards out from goal. USD redshirt junior midfielder Michaela Foster stepped up to take the freekick but placed it just wide of the left post.

About 15 minutes into the first half, the Aztecs started to come out of their shell.

“We settled in and started to play,” said head coach Mike Friesen. “Early we were playing a lot of longer balls, not trusting that we could connect passes underneath. Once we realized we could connect and play, it tilted the game the other way.”

Sophomore Emma Gaines-Ramos and senior Anna Toohey looked by far the most influential players for the Aztecs in the first half with multiple darting runs in the opponent’s half. The Aztecs first shot of the game came through Gaines-Ramos as she watched her shot deflect off the defender and hit the crossbar in the 24th minute.

Thirty minutes into the first half, the first goal was scored as Toohey played the ball to Castro who took a couple of touches to get the ball out of her feet, then ruthlessly smashed the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal.

The second goal of the game didn’t come too long after.

In the 35th minute, senior Lauren Dicus ran down the right-wing and whipped a ball into the feet of Castro. Castro did a brilliant job controlling and turning with the ball as she then squeezed her shot through both the narrowest of angles and the keeper’s legs to give the Aztecs a 2-0 lead. 

The second half would start the same way the first half ended, with the Aztecs on the front foot pushing for more goals.

Castro would complete her hat trick in the 55th minute with a half volley off her left foot, onto the left post, and into the back of the net. Toohey claimed her second assist of the game as well, as her beautiful one-time cross allowed Castro to complete her hat trick.

Toohey says she’s seeing a lot of improvement from Castro every week.

“She’s been getting better every single game, her touch was so good today,” said Toohey “She’s one of those super dynamic forwards that isn’t just looking to take it herself.”

Although the Aztecs only took seven shots in comparison to the 14 shots by the Toreros. The Aztecs’ front three would cause problems for the Torero’s backline throughout the night.

Not only was the Aztecs’ offense clicking on all corners tonight but so was their defense. Center backs Utush and junior Claire Watkins had a solid game on defense, making solid tackles and forcing bad shots from the Toreros all night.

“Our defense was much improved, we’re starting to do the little things better. Over the last 3 or 4 weeks we’ve had to learn through trial by fire not to make small mistakes in big moments,” said Friesen.

“This game we had a lot of grit and determination, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could win a game and keep a shutout,” said Utush.

The Aztecs were also reassured knowing they have a keeper such as sophomore Alexa Madueno in goal. Madueno added five more saves tonight to bring her season tally to 49 saves.

“I love Alexa; she keeps me in the game, always has my back, and I know she’s a player I can trust,” said Utush.

The Aztecs are back in action against UCLA at the SDSU Sports Deck on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 6:00 p.m.