- covering the world of women's sport
Top Headlines
Women's Pro Sports
Women's Collegiate
Women's Fitness
Athlete Profiles
National Teams
Photo Galleries
SI  Watch
Sports History
The Gift Shop

WSPW Press Kit
Submit Story


SDSU Aztecs kick off conference play

Aztecs high kick - © 2006 Paul Martinez
Mariko Strickland clears a high pass over her Creighton attacker

Paul Martinez / PHOTOSPORT

By Phillip Brents

WSPW correspondent

SAN DIEGO - Head coach Mike Giuliano’s San Diego State University women’s soccer team kicks off Mountain West Conference play with a pair of games this weekend at the SDSU Sports Deck. The Aztecs will entertain Air Force on Friday at 4 p.m., followed by an 11:30 a.m. match against UNLV on Sunday as the front end of a double-header with the men’s team.

Giuliano maintains high hopes for the program but injuries to key personnel have added a frustrating element to the first half of the season.

SDSU enters Friday’s match with a 4-7 non-conference record. The Aztecs will be looking to snap a four-match losing streak.

Based on last year’s 11-9-2 conference finish and 2-1 overtime loss in the semifinals in the MWC championship tournament, conference coaches had tabbed the Aztecs to finish third in MWC play this season behind BYU and Utah.

At this point, Giuliano isn’t ruling anything out.

“I truly believe that this team should be one of the major super powers of women’s soccer,” said Giuliano, who is coaching his third season with the Aztecs after winning four NAIA national championships in 11 years at Westmont College. “We’re well supported. One of our goals is to be a top 30 team.”

Giuliano set a specific goal this season of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. “We almost got there last year,” he said.

The Aztecs had a great kick-start to the season by defeating Butler (2-0) and No. 21 Perdue (4-0) at the Butler tournament in West Lafayette, Ind. Sophomore forward Erika Sutton (Arvada, Colo.) and freshman defender Lauren Lelise (San Clemente) earned Mountain West Conference offensive and defensive player of the week honors for their play in the tournament.

Sutton leads the team with 10 points on three goals and four assists while sophomore forward Jen Mello (Pleasanton) ranks second with three goals and added two assists.

“They’re our one-two punch. They’re just great together,” the SDSU coach said.

However, an injury to the team’s top defensive player has forced the team to rely on a freshman leader on the back-line.

Still, the Aztecs have had their moments.

SDSU has out-shot opponents 145-130 this season but has been out-scored 16-11. Four of the Aztecs’ seven losses have come by 1-0 margins, including a Sept. 1 match at fifth-ranked UCLA.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Giuliano said. “We’re out-shooting these teams and losing 1-0.”

SDSU has won the last five meetings against Air Force (3-7-2) but will face a UNLV team (5-6-1) coming off a 1-0 double overtime victory against No. 20 Pepperdine.

The Aztecs fell 1-0 to Pepperdine on Sept. 22 despite owning a 9-8 edge in shots.

SDSU has sent 25 players to the pitch this season and underclassmen have been carrying the load thus far with 10 of the team’s 11 goals.

The Aztecs have seven San Diego County players on their 2006 roster: goalkeepers Jill Foss (Oceanside) and Cat Burson (Poway), defender Jillian Riker (Carlsbad), midfielder Jessica Girdner (San Diego), defender/ forward Adora DaCosta-Muniz (Ramona), defender/midfielder Shayla Williams (San Diego) and forward Jackie Ragudos (San Diego).

“The best San Diego players seem to either go to USD or out of the area. We’re working hard to keep all that talent at home,” Giuliano said.

One thing is certain: soccer appears to be entrenched in the Giuliano family. Oldest son Josh, 16, is a goalkeeper on the Otay Ranch High School boys soccer team. The Mustangs won last year’s South Bay League title. Justin, 13, plays AYSO soccer while Linnae, 11, plays soccer for the Bonita Rebels, an area competitive club team.

 Photo Gallery


 Jen Mello tackle

Aztec goal celebration

 Aztec goal celebration

Flip throw in (C) PHOTOSPORT

 Sam Russell flip-throw

contact | privacy policy | jobs
©2004 Sports PhotoWorld Magazine