By Phillip Brents
SAN DIEGO - Head coach Mike Giulianos San Diego
State University womens 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 mens
Giuliano maintains high hopes for the program but injuries
to key personnel have added a frustrating element to the first half of the
SDSU enters Fridays match with a 4-7 non-conference
record. The Aztecs will be looking to snap a four-match losing streak.
Based on last years 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 isnt ruling anything
I truly believe that this team should be one of
the major super powers of womens soccer, said Giuliano, who is
coaching his third season with the Aztecs after winning four NAIA national
championships in 11 years at Westmont College. Were 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.
Theyre our one-two punch. Theyre just
great together, the SDSU coach said.
However, an injury to the teams top defensive
player has forced the team to rely on a freshman leader on the
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.
Its pretty frustrating, Giuliano said.
Were 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 teams
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. Were 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 years South
Bay League title. Justin, 13, plays AYSO soccer while Linnae, 11, plays soccer
for the Bonita Rebels, an area competitive club team.