PREVIEW: SF State women's soccer team returns to field with renewed confidence

Women's soccer
SF State junior soccer player Michelle Kay dribbles the soccer ball at Maloney Field in San Francisco Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. The Gators finished the 2011 season with a 8-8-2 overall record. Photo by Godofredo Vasquez.

After a disappointing 2011 season, the SF State women’s soccer team is ready to prove last year was a fluke. The Gators will start the 2012 season with 18 returners, 10 new players and the chemistry needed to reach the playoffs as they did in 2010.

University women’s soccer head coach Jack Hyde knows that for the team to reach playoff form, players will have to continue to be defensively sound and improve on last year’s 1.06 goals per game average.

“To be successful in this conference you have to have, just to be competitive, below two goals per game against you,” Hyde said. “And then on the opposite end you gotta have a minimum of two goals a game.”

Last year the Gators struggled to generate shots during matches. While the team averaged 10.8 shots per game, opponents averaged 14.3. That might not seem like a big margin, but five of their eight losses were decided by one goal.

The Gators have focused on their chemistry on the field, something that will certainly help them move into opponents’ penalty boxes and generate more goals.

“We’ve been concentrating on possession and angles of play so that we’re able to support each other and we limit the times we turn the ball over,” Hyde said.

Junior forward Michelle Kay has noticed improvement on the Gators’ ability to move up and down the field during preseason games.

“Our midfields and our forwards are synching in, so we can read other players… In our (preseason) game, we had so many combinations to get to the goal,” she said. “We created so much opportunity that our offense and our defense feels pretty solid right now.”

Trust and chemistry allow teams the freedom to control the tempo and be creative during games.

“It’s something I can’t explain. When you’re able to go out on the soccer field, not be able to think and just play. That’s chemistry. Like, you know where that player is, you know what they’re gonna do, you trust them,” she said. “That’s our team out there. We trust each other.”

Goalkeeper Annicia Jones is one of only two seniors on the team and has high expectations for herself and the team this year.

“I want to improve my goals against average and try to make first-team all-league, and of course getting to the tournament,” Jones said. “Our goal is to always go further than any team has gone before, so we’re gonna try to go to the second round of NCAA.”

Jones was consistent last year, posting a 1.14 goals against average while starting all 18 games. She seems eager to bring her average down to the vicinity of .67, a number she posted after her first season as a starter for the Gators in 2010.

Another solid season by Jones, combined with consistent play by the entire team could give the Gators another playoff appearance.

The Gators will begin 2012 on the road as they take on 2011 California Collegiate Athletic Association champion UC San Diego Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.