Prepare yourselves, the Sonoma State University men’s soccer team has returned, looking to wreak havoc on any team it may face in 2017. A preseason poll of league coaches predicts the team will place second in CCAA standings, while UC San Diego is favored to take the No. 1 spot.
After a successful 2016 campaign that featured a 10-5-5 overall record, the Seawolves set the California Collegiate Athletic Association ablaze with an 8-2-2 Conference record, finishing second and earning their first birth to the NCAA Division II Men’s Championship Tournament since 2010. After their impressive 2016 season, the 2017 squad, featuring the return of seven starters, will need to remain in peak form to dethrone last year’s conference champion U.C. San Diego.
Entering his 27th season as Sonoma State’s head coach, Marcus Ziemer believes this team is looking strong with “Very good players, good returners, and good leadership, along with a couple of new guys in the mix that are new to the university that could really help.”
Good leadership will be a necessary component in building a championship-caliber squad. This year, the Seawolves will look for continued success with the help of veteran guidance from captains Eric Alvarado and Mitch North. Alvarado, a senior from Escondido, will lead the charge on defense as one of the premier center backs of the league for a defense that finished 18th in Goals Against Average (.80) nationally.
North, a senior from Ashland, Oregon, will man the posts after putting together a fine 2016 campaign that included seven shutouts to his name.
“Our goalie, Mitch North, he just brings a fire that he has inside of him. I think he’ll change the game with big saves. I also think what he does on and off the field is just really important for the team as well,” senior leader Josh Sanchez said.
Paired with an outstanding defense, players say the offense will also be a force to be reckoned with, as last season’s squad finished in the top five of the conference in average goals per game (1.500), with only San Francisco State, U.C. Davis, and Cal State Dominguez Hills ranking higher. Junior Forward Marco Barragan, who sat out all of last season as a redshirt after transferring from U.C. Davis and being deemed ineligible by the NCAA, could also impact the field this season.
“Marco, who was a redshirt last year, is looking really solid,” Alvarado said. “We knew he was going to be a good player - he’s quick, he’s fast, he can score goals and already is looking like he’s on fire after he played a good game at Saint Mary’s last week. He’s right footed and has a nasty shot, so he can just come in and whip it near post - throws our keeper off all the time.”
This 2017 squad says the ultimate goal of winning the NCAA Division II national title is at the forefront of every player and coach’s mind. The winning mentality is one shared by Sophomore striker, Luis Mendoza. “We need to win as a team and we need to lose as a team. We all just need to push each other to do their best every game so we can go as far as we can - win CCAA, and hopefully head back to the big dance,” he said.
The quest for dominance will begin at 7 p.m on Aug. 31, when the Seawolves take on Western Washington in Bellingham, Washington . on Robert S. Harrington Field. Sonoma State’s first home game will be against California Baptist at 2 p.m. on Sept. 7 at home on the Seawolf Soccer Field.