The 2011 SF State women’s soccer team is a confounding bunch. They have showed the ability to flat-out dominate the best teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. They have also suffered losses to teams they should beat handily.
This is in large part the same group that took home the school’s first and only CCAA title in any sport. For a big chunk of the season, they looked primed to repeat that feat.
The Gators opened the season on a 6-1-1 run. The game plan was simple. Rely on their impenetrable defense, which gave up just two goals in the first eight games, while hoping for magic in the offensive end. The formula worked well for a while.
Each of the Gators’ first four matches went to double overtime after ending regulation play at 0-0. Three of those matches ended with an SF State player scoring a golden goal in sudden death to give the Gators a victory, the fourth in a draw.
Twice it was junior midfielder Nicole Vanni who made the game-winning play. Vanni carried the team through much of the year when she scored five goals in three games, all Gator victories. She has scored half of the Gators’ goals this season.
The Gator defense seemed unbeatable at times. Senior goalkeeper Annicia Jones had seven shutouts in the team’s first eight games. The only blemish came in a heartbreaking overtime loss to current conference leader UC San Diego.
were equally responsible for shutting down opposing offenses.
The Gators play a physical, in-your-face style of soccer. They are consistently the more aggressive, intimidating team on the field. This style has broken the wills of a number of their opponents as the game wears on. Of the Gators’ 14 goals this season, 11 have come in the second half or overtime.
When Gators tore through Humboldt State, Sonoma State and Cal State San Bernardino with a 6-0 total tally in mid-season, they looked comfortably stationed for a playoff spot and a run at the title.
Somewhere along the way, the team lost its magic.
The Gators have lost four of their last six games while at times looking flustered and unsure.
A big element of the decline can be attributed to injuries of two of the team’s defensive stalwarts. Duran and Dick have each missed full games in the past two weeks. The status of Dick’s knee and Duran’s ankle are at present uncertain.
Their absence can be seen on the scoreboard. After allowing just two goals in their first eight games, the Gators have given up nine in the last five.
The Gators’ last two games have been a perfect capsule of the wild polarity in their quality of play. They followed up a thrilling 2-1 win over a tough Chico State team with a mind-boggling 4-0 loss to Cal State Stanislaus in which they allowed four goals in eight minutes.
The team is on the outside looking in at the playoffs with a record 8-5-1 and four games remaining. A bid to the postseason is still within reach, but the Gators need to find a way to recapture the lightning that has slipped from their bottle.