Aztec women’s soccer shuts out Colorado College, advances to MWC tourney final

by Brandon Truffa, Staff Writer

As the starting lineups were announced prior to Thursday night’s Mountain West women’s soccer tournament semi-final match between San Diego State (15-4, 10-1 MW) and Colorado College (9-12-1, many fans were shocked when SDSU freshman forward Leah Pruitt’s name went unsaid.

In fact, Pruitt, who was named to the MW first team, led the team in points and goals, and earned freshman of the year honors, was not even suited up.

Apparently, a lingering knee injury, will unfortunately keep Pruitt sidelined for the remainder of the season.

“She’s got some knee issues going on that we don’t want to make any worse, and we’re not going to risk her for the sake of another game,” SDSU Head Coach Mike Friesen said.

But the No. 1 seeded Aztecs could not, and would not pull the panic switch as they beat Colorado College 2-0 to advance to Saturday’s championship game against San Jose State.

The success of the Aztecs this season does not lend itself to one player. It lends itself to the team, and the team’s depth.

Thursday night was proof.

At Wednesday night’s team dinner, Aztecs junior forward Morgan Darling was informed she would start in Pruitt’s place. Darling had not started a game all season, and spent most of the year coming on as a sub.

“We’ve all got each other’s back,” Darling said. “We’re all going to be there when one’s down.”

Darling played 75 minutes, and although she failed to register a shot, she helped control the midfield, and create ample chances for the Aztecs.

Another depth player who came up big during Thursday night’s match was junior defender Zsuria Phare.

Phare played in place of sophomore defender Jen Rupey, who suffered a knee injury during the regular season finale last week against the University of New Mexico.

Thursday was Phare’s first start since the beginning of conference play, after being replaced in the crowded starting lineup by sophomore defender Hailey Balma.

But for Phare, none of that mattered. Playing with Rupey on her mind, the only thing that did matter was the job at hand.

“I stepped up and I did my job, and tried to make (Rupey) happy, and the coaches happy,” Phare said.

That happiness was achieved, and then some, in the 71st minute.

Phare received the ball along the right wing, and sent a ball into the box hoping a teammate would be able to finish it.

Luckily for her, the ball had eyes of its own, and found twine instead, giving SDSU a 1-0 lead.

“I saw Morgan (Darling) and Hedda (Regefalk) in the back post, and I tried to get it over, but then it just dipped, and then just went into the left corner,” Phare said. “I’m very thankful for that.”

Just like SDSU men’s basketball Head Coach Steve Fisher would draw it up. An alley-oop pass that just drops into the net on its own.

That was the eventual game-winning goal, which came shortly after Colorado College was forced to play with only 10 players on the field after Tigers sophomore defender Anne-Sophie Lapointe was given a red card after receiving her second yellow card of the match in the 65th minute.

From there, the Aztecs played with a man-advantage, and opened up their attack.

The heavy attack, along with the “I Believe” chant from the crowd resulted in Phare’s goal, and an insurance goal in the 85th minute.

Adding the insurance was sophomore forward Dani DeRosa, who finished a ball played by junior midfielder Victoria Barba.

DeRosa entered the game as a substitute, and became another depth player who stepped up big for the Aztecs.

Aside from depth, another strong defensive effort from the Aztecs held the Tigers to eight shots on goal, and prevented senior midfielder, and MW offensive player of the year, Sarah Schweiss from breaking free behind the backline.

“We wanted to make sure we limited (Schweiss’) chances,” Friesen said. “She’ll shoot from anywhere, and she can score from anywhere. We did a really nice job at making sure we limited those shots.”

A win for the Aztecs on Saturday means they will become the first team to sweep the MW regular season, and conference tournament titles four years in a row.

“We’re going for the eighth title right now,” Darling said. “Our eyes are set on the prize, and we’re focusing on us.”