Ayala-Hil looks to improve upon first season at SF State

Javier Ayala-Hil, head coach of the Gators men's soccer team, warming up during the team's spring training at Cox Stadium on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Ayala-Hil is in his second year as head coach of the Gators. (Ivan Corona/Xpress)

The SF State men’s soccer team is back to practice in preparation for their upcoming fall season after completing their 2016 regular season with a 9-6-2 overall record, only four points from a playoff berth.

Head coach Javier Ayala-Hil was added to the Gator family last fall, two weeks prior to the first match. Ayala-Hil’s first season gave him the opportunity to test the waters in the swamp and will have had a complete year to prepare come this August.

“I think last season went well overall considering the time,” Ayala-Hil said. “All the credit goes to the players, they came in focused and we had a game plan of what we wanted to do with the team and they adapted pretty quickly.”

Ayala-Hil and his assistant coach Evan Sassano come from the University of California, Berkeley, a nationally ranked team, in which both were part of the men’s soccer coaching staff. They were able to help the men’s soccer program advance all the way to the third round of the Division I Men’s College Cup.

“The style of play that they are trying to bring into this program of keeping possession is going to work,” returning forward Richard Leon said. “I believe in what they are trying to make us do and feel that if we all as a team adapt to the way that they want us to play we will win our conference.”

The summer is where players have the most time to get in top physical shape and improve their soccer skills.

Leon explained that soccer demands a lot of athleticism on and off the field.. Not only is physical training required but consuming the right food for the body to run well.

“This summer I’m going to try and stay in shape, I’m going to get a gym membership so that I can come back a little bit stronger for the fall,” said Leon. “I’m also going to try to get on a diet plan because I usually don’t eat that healthy.”

Returning midfielder, Aydan Bowers added on what improvements he will try to accomplish this summer.

“I’m looking to get better in everything not only with my physical features but also just getting soccer smart and working on the little things.”

As for the Gators on-field objectives, Ayala-Hil commented that he has high expectations for his team and expects his players to be in top physical and mental shape to be able to perform the possessive and speed dominant style of play.

“We want to win by playing our style of soccer…our first goal is to make playoffs, something our school hasn’t done before,”  said Jesse Rodriguez who is returning for his last season. “From there we want to take it game by game and go as far as we can.”

As a captain, Rodriguez didn’t hesitate to double down on his team’s ability to be a top squad in the conference.

“My goal as a captain is going to be to motivate and push the team to a higher level than we are used to,” Rodriguez said. “I want to make sure everyone is competing both in practice and games.”

The Gators will begin their season in Oregon to face off against Saint Martin’s University on Aug. 31.

“We are all putting in a lot of hours on and off the field trying to remain fit and adapt to our coach’s style of play in preparation for the upcoming season,” Rodriguez said. “We still have a long way to go, but I think we are on the right path.”