Walking by Cox Stadium weekdays around noon, voices of women shouting and whistles blowing can be heard from the distance. The smell of freshly cut grass permeates the cool spring air and the sound of cleats striking a soccer ball echoes on the east side of campus. The SF State women’s soccer team is training tirelessly for their upcoming season.
“I’ve been here for only two seasons and have had back-to-back winning seasons,” women’s soccer head coach Tracy Hamm said. “That’s really good, but we still have a lot of work to do to turn it into the program I want it to be.”
Since Hamm joined the SF State soccer program in fall 2015, the women’s team finished its last two seasons with a 8-7-3 overall record. Prior to Hamm, the Gators had not experienced consecutive winning seasons in more than a decade.
At the end of last season the Gator women said their goodbyes to 14 graduating seniors who were part of the 29-woman roster.
“When the new recruits come in, we are going to lay down the law and make sure they know who’s boss,” returning defender Laura Shea said.
Shea said she loves playing for SF State because of the tight family bond.
“It’s been a long time since I have had such a close connection with all the girls in my team and we can count on each other for anything,” Shea said.
Last season the Gators were two points short of a postseason run, ending in ninth place in the CCAA.
“Last season was a struggle and there were some games that we definitely shouldn’t have lost,” Shea said. “We were all just pretty mad that we didn’t end up where we wanted to.”
During the 2016 season, the Gators did not lose by more than one goal in any of their seven defeats. They completed the campaign, only allowing 16 goals and ranked sixth in goals against in conference.
“This spring we are definitely being more competitive and it just feels like we want it more,” Vanessa Penuna said. “I also think we are much more aggressive in every play.”
With 11 returners and 18 new players joining the squad in the upcoming fall season, coach Hamm hopes to train her players into the system she will run for the next four seasons.
The Gators kick off their next season in Portland, Oregon where they will face off against Concordia University on August 31.
“We all have that one vision,” Penuna said. “We are going to come back, go hard and win.”