The CSUN women’s soccer team will have a distinctly different look this season, both on the field and on the sideline.
Keith West, who has been an assistant with the men’s team since 2000 has taken over the head coaching job for the women this year. West signed 12 players and plans to add about five players.
West took over for Terry Davila, who is now the head coach for the men’s squad. He said he is confident in the ability of the team and does not plan to change coaching strategies much.
“I don’t foresee any big coaching changes,” West said. “We’ll do the same things we’ve been doing the last couple of years.”
In 2004, the Matadors made their first Big West tournament appearance. Despite a 10-1 start in 2005, they were not able to finish strong enough to make the postseason.
The Matadors lost Carrie Murphy to injury before the start of last season. Shortly after, the team lost star-forward Kaitlyn Kelly, who West said was a big part of their offense. After the loss of Kelly, things began to snowball for the team. Starting center fullback Jackie Kecskes and midfielder Emily Niven were both lost for the year leaving the Matadors with little depth.
“The injury bug hit us last year,” West said. “When you lose so many players of quality, it’s very difficult.”
West hopes the large recruiting class will give them the depth they were missing last season. He said these players, however, will not necessarily be relegated to the bench.
“There is a chance of them starting,” West said. “There are some quality players coming in.”
April Millado is one of those players. She is a transfer student from Boston College, where she played three seasons as defender. Originally from Woodland Hills, Millado made the under-16 national team as a junior player.
“She’s an incredible talent,” West said.
All 12 of the players signed to play next season come from California. West said he like to recruit locally, adding that the best soccer talent in the country comes from California.
“Southern California has the best players,” West said. “Southern California has the best soccer.”
The new players include Adriene Dickerson of Fontana, Kellie Drenner of Palmdale, Ivette Esqueda of Moreno Valley, Katie Fox of Simi Valley, Rilesha Haynie of Walnut, Adrianna Hermosillo of Valencia, Xiomara Martinez of Los Angeles, April Joy Millado of Canoga Park, Laura Nunes of Garden Grove, Kelley Ross of Agoura Hills, Farryn Townley of Palmdale, and Sydney Vermillion of La Crescenta.
As excited as West is to be the coach, the players are even more excited to play for him.
“I love him being our coach,” said sophomore defender Naleena Betancourt. “He’s passionate, straight to the point and doesn’t hide anything.”
Fortunately, many of the players were familiar with West because of his presence with the men’s team for six years.
“We’re very comfortable with him,” said junior midfielder Kristy Krohn. “We were lucky because change is hard.”
The players are also positive about the incoming recruits. They believe the new players will help them be more effective this season.
“We have more depth at every position,” Betancourt said. “They seem to fit what we need.”
The team hopes their improvementis sufficint enough for the Big West Conference – one of the best in the country. Long Beach State has one of the best recruiting classes nationwide and is ranked #15 in the country. Both UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton made the NCAA tournament last year. CSUN is still searching for their first NCAA appearance.
A women’s soccer website, soccerbuzz.com, picked CSUN to finish dead last in the conference. West is neither worried nor offended by this.
“I don’t need those publications to make me feel good,” West said. “I almost prefer them to pick us to finish last.”
West is eager to get his team on the field, but NCAA regulations say the team cannot begin practicing until August 9. That gives him 21 practice opportunities between then and the season-opener with Northern Arizona University on August 25.
The Matadors have a tough schedule this season with games against top 20 teams such as Pepperdine, Long Beach State and 2005 national runner-up UCLA. They will also travel extensively and compete in tournaments in Corvallis, San Francisco and Honolulu.
Despite the grueling schedule ahead, West is confident about the Matadors’ chances.
“I wouldn’t have taken this opportunity if I didn’t think we could win,” West said. “I feel we can explode here. We can do something that no one’s ever done.”