Roadrunners rebuilding program with new faces

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By Patricia Rocha

News Editor

CSU Bakersfield women’s soccer coach Gary Curneen believes the key to this season’s success starts way before the players ever step onto the field.

“This is our [coaching staff’s] second season,” Curneen said. “Last year, we didn’t have enough time to recruit players. We had what we had and we got through the year and realized we need to rebuild and to reevaluate the type of player we were getting and what type of student we were getting.”

This rebuilding meant finding players who could not only perform physically but academically and socially. Curneen considers these skills non-negotiable for a successful Division I team.

“We’ve spent a lot of work over the past 18 months with this group, and we believe in them as soccer players. But, more importantly, we believe in them as students,” he said.

As of Sept. 9, the Roadrunners started the 2015 season 1-3-1.

On Aug. 21, the Roadrunners went up against Humboldt State University and beat them 4-0. They followed with a 1-1 tie at Eastern Washington on Aug. 28 and then three straight losses. The first was a 3-1 loss on Aug. 30 against Gonzaga then a 3-2 loss at home against Sacramento State on Sept. 4. On Sept. 6, the Roadrunners lost to UC Riverside 3-0.

CSUB’s next game will be at Colorado College on Sept. 18 at 4 p.m.

With 16 new players added to the roster, Curneen expects a more competitive and energetic group of athletes who will give the community a team worth watching.

Tori Ornela, co-captain and goalkeeper, believes this mindset brings the whole team together.

“Academics are really important for this team especially moving the program forward from where it has been in the past years,” said Ornela, who started 20 games last year and had 107 saves.

This moving forward emphasizes three traditional weaknesses for the team: on the road, Sunday games, and low attendance rates.

Ornela added that some of the key players this year will be freshman defender Katie McMullin from San Jose, Calif., freshman midfielder Allison Mathis from Cincinnati, Ohio, freshman forward Haley Vicente from Las Vegas, Nev. and redshirt-freshman midfielder Alexa Orrante. Additionally, she expects freshman midfielder Sabrina Delgado from Hacienda Heights, Calif. and sophomore midfielder Maja Green, who started all 21 games last season and finished with three goals and one assist to be vital to the team’s success.

As for the games, Curneen and Ornela both agree it takes each member’s commitment to her teammates to succeed in less-than-perfect conditions.

“On the road, it’s kind of different because everyone’s jet lagged and everything’s in a different place,” said Ornella. “We’re not used to being on the road, especially with a young team.”

As a captain, Ornela said she wants her teammates to “have fun and laugh and not be so uptight about what we need to accomplish and just be there for each other when things go wrong and when things are going great.”

Curneen added that it’s vital for the individuals to play for the team and not just for themselves.

“I think our program has to excel at playing in imperfect conditions…whatever it is. If our players can embrace adversity and deal with it rather than being knocked from it, then we will have a better record on the road, a better record on Sundays, and we will be successful in key stages.”

Though Curneen does look forward to the challenge and progress every game presents, there are some standouts on the schedule, including playing against teams they lost to last year: Seattle University, Utah Valley University and Grand Canyon University, which they play both at home and away this season.

“Those six games that we lost, all six from last year, we’ve got to get two or three wins out of that this year,” said Curneen.

Though Ornela’s looking forward to playing every game in her last season, one of these teams stood out for her as well.

“The one school that I really am definitely wanting to play against is Seattle [to] see what we can accomplish, because they’ve been a good rival for us,” she said. “I want to see what this team can do against such a high-ranked team.”