ON THE PITCH Utah State soccer (5-2-1, 0-0-0 MW) opens Mountain West competition this weekend with a pair of road matches. The Aggies will play at San José State (3-4-0, 0-0-0 MW) on Friday, Sept, 22, at 3 p.m. (MT), followed by a match at Fresno State (5-2-1, 0-0-0 MW) on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 1 p.m.
SCOUTING SAN JOSÉ STATE San José State enters Mountain West play with a 3-4-0 record. The Spartans welcome the Aggies on a two-game win streak, posting 1-0 home victories over Cal Poly and Saint Mary’s last week. The Spartans have three players with a season-leading two goals apiece. Senior forward Dorthe Hopkins leads the offense with two goals and one assist. Sophomore Ana Calero and junior Paige Simoneau have split time in the goal through the preseason, combining for 32 saves while allowing 10 goals. The Spartans return 13 letterwinners and five starters from last season, when the team went 10-6-4 overall and 7-3-1 in league play, finishing second in the Mountain West standings. Lauren Hanson is in her fourth season at the helm of the San José State program, where she has an overall record of 28-22-11.
All-time, Utah State is 9-2-2 in competition with San José State. The two teams have met every season since 2005, since USU joined the Western Athletic Conference. The Aggies and Spartans made the move to the Mountain West at the same time in 2013. Last season, Utah State topped SJSU, 2-1, in a match in Logan.
SCOUTING FRESNO STATE Like the Aggies, Fresno State posted a 5-2-1 record through non-conference play. The Bulldogs have won four-straight matches, going back to Sept. 3, with three of the four being played at home. Fresno State will open Mountain West play in a home contest against Boise State on Friday. Sophomore forward Julia Glaser leads the Bulldog offense with six goals and one assists on the season. Junior Nicole Theroux has seen the majority of minutes in the net for Fresno State, tallying 25 saves and allowing five goals. The Bulldogs return all but one starter from last season, when the team went 10-8-1 on the year, including a 5-5-1 Mountain West record. Brian Zwachska is in his ninth season as the head coach at Fresno State, where he has a 59-82-15 record.
Utah State is 5-8-3 all-time against the Bulldogs, in a series dating back to 1999. The teams played together in the WAC from 2005-11, before joining back up in the Mountain West in 2013. Last season, the Aggies topped the Bulldogs, 4-0, in a home match for USU.
HEADING INTO CONFERENCE PLAY Friday marks the start of the 2017 Mountain West competition season. All-time, Utah State is 9-9-3 in conference openers, including a 1-2-1 record in Mountain West openers. The Aggies have an all-time conference record of 89-71-17, participating in the Big West, WAC and Mountain West since the team’s inception in 1996. Utah State is 23-16-4 in conference play since joining the Mountain West.
A WINNING PRESEASON Utah State finished the non-conference portion of its season with a 5-2-1 record. A .688 winning percentage, this marks the Aggies’ best preseason record since 2011. That year, USU went 8-3-0 in non-conference play, a .727 winning percentage.
THE NIFTY 150 With Sunday’s 3-0 win at Oakland, Utah State head coach Heather Cairns secured her 150th win at the helm of the Aggie program. The winningest coach in Utah State history, Cairns has an overall record of 150-112-35 in her 15 years as head coach.
FRESHMAN PHENOM Freshman midfielder Ashley Cardozo leads the Aggie offense this season, tallying five goals and three assists so far. She is the highest-scoring USU freshman since 2008, when Shantel Flanary finished the year with five goals and two assists. Cardozo has the third-highest point totals of all freshmen in program history, behind Brigid Turner (1999) and Jayme Gordy (1997), who tallied 25 and 14 points in their respective freshman campaigns.
CLIMBING THE LADDER Senior forward Wesley Hamblin continues to climb the all-time assist list in the Utah State record books. She is currently tied for second with 17 career assists, recording the 16th and 17th in the win at Oakland. Jessica Brooksby (2013-16) holds the all-time assist record with 18.
GETTING THE GAME-WINNER Freshman midfielder Ashley Cardozo leads the Mountain West and the NCAA in game-winning goals with four on the year. Of the nine players nationally to tally four game-winners, three of them hail from the Mountain West. Cardozo joins Fresno State forward Julia Glaser and Boise State forward Raimee Sherle at the top of the league standings.
WHAT WE PLAY FOR As the winners of the 2016 Mountain West title, UNLV will host the 2017 Mountain West Championships. The tournament will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 31, continuing with semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 2, and the championship match on Saturday, Nov. 4. Only the top six teams in the Mountain West standings will advance to the conference tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS Utah State was picked fourth in the Mountain West Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches. The Aggies earned 97 points in this season’s poll, along with one first-place vote. Last season, Utah State finished tied for third in the final standings with a 7-4-0 conference record. San Diego State was picked as the favorite to win the league for the fifth year in a row, tallying 110 total points and three first-place votes.
THE LAST TIME OUT Utah State posted a 2-0 road record last week, as it closed non-conference competition with a 2-1 win at Eastern Michigan and a 3-0 win at Oakland. Against the Eagles, freshman midfielder Ashley Cardozo scored both goals, scoring in the 65th minute on a 20-yard shot, and again in the 82nd minute on a free kick. Senior goalkeeper Sara Cobb tallied two saves, allowing one goal in the final 15 seconds of the match. Against the Golden Grizzlies, three Aggies scored, with a double-assist on each goal. Sophomore midfielder Kanyan Ward put the Aggies on the board in the 13th minute, with assists from senior forward Bailee Hammond and Cardozo. Junior midfielder Jordyn Chung-Hoon added a goal in the 65th minute, assisted by Cardozo and senior forward Wesley Hamblin. Sophomore forward Alecia Robinson had the final goal of the day in the 69th minute, with assists from Hamblin and Chung-Hoon. Cobb made the start at Oakland, with junior Grace McGuire also seeing her first action of the season. Together, the pair made four saves, while giving the Aggies their fourth shutout of the season. On the week, USU took 33 shots with 18 on goal, while the Aggies’ opponents combined for 19 shots with seven on goal. Cobb and McGuire combined for six saves on the weekend, allowing just one goal.
After a month on the road, Utah State returns to the friendly confines of Chuck & Gloria Bell Field. The Aggies will host San Diego State on Friday, Sept. 29, at Noon. That match is part of a Utah State doubleheader with the football team, which hosts BYU at 6 p.m. The weekend will continue against New Mexico on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m.
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