A resurgent offense that’s producing goals and excitement is the highlight of the Fresno State Women’s Soccer team at the start of the 2016 season.
The team features a respected captain who anchors the midfield and two forwards — including a newcomer from Europe.
Their head coach sharpened his skills recently by coaching the Fresno Fuego Fùtbol Club, an amateur men’s soccer team.
“We’re ahead of where we were the last couple of seasons in a lot of respects, particularly in our ability to score goals,” said head coach Brian Zwaschka. “That’s exciting for us. And from the entertainment standpoint, it adds a lot for our fans, as well.”
In the first five games, the team scored nine goals in, going 2-3.
Junior forward Myra Delgadillo scored three of the goals.
Delgadillo said she wants to lead the Mountain West Conference in scoring and make the All-Conference First Team. Last year, she was named to the Second Team.
“I feel we started a little weak with the losses, but with each game we’re going to get better and better,” she said. “I feel the team is progressing.”
How the team is scoring goals is important, Zwaschka said, in his eighth season with the team.
“We’re better prepared in terms of our overall game plan. So goals aren’t just happening by chance,” he said. “They’re happening more by design — and we’re taking advantage of our opportunities.”
Forward Julia Glaser — who was born in Switzerland, raised in Germany and played on national youth teams for both countries — scored two goals and led the Bulldogs with 16 shots through the first five games.
Glaser, a freshman, was selected as Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week in early September following back-to-back road wins by the Bulldogs.
Glaser scored one goal against Portland State University and one against University of California, Davis on the road trip.
“The game here is really different from our game at home,” Glaser said. “It’s really fast, and I have to get used to that. But I like it. In Europe, we play more passes and keep the ball. Here, it’s forward, forward.”
Zwaschka said Glaser adds a dynamic to the offense that Fresno State hasn’t had for several years:
“She comes from a pretty sophisticated soccer background technically and tactically, and that adds a different wrinkle for us,” he said. “Most of all, it’s her composure and her desire to improve that are benefiting us right now.”
Glaser is one of five players from Europe playing for Fresno State for the 2016 season.
Zwaschka said he recruits overseas through networking with soccer coaches and through videos — not by traveling to Europe.
“Skype and FaceTime — that’s how we create relationships with players and their families. It has been massive,” he said.
The vast majority of Zwaschka’s players are from California, and four are from the Central Valley: Alyssa Nishikawa, Fresno; Kayla Calmes, Fresno; Racine Babb, Caruthers; and Sadie Montague, Atwater.
The Californians also include the team captain, senior Alyssa Holsworth from the Bay Area.
Holsworth, who plays midfield, is in her fourth year with the Bulldogs.
A combination of experience and demeanor distinguishes Holsworth, Zwaschka said: “She’s respected as a player, for sure, but she’s also respected as a person. She’s one of those people who can manage personalities because she’s likeable.”
Holsworth said Fresno State started with “tough losses” to University of California, Santa Barbara, California State University, Bakersfield and Pepperdine University.
But, she added, “We came back and got two big wins on the road. It’s a good start for us.”
She added: “We just have to tighten up defensively and make sure we’re all on the same page . . .”
The team’s first goal is to qualify for the Mountain West end-of-season tournament. The top six teams in the final conference standings qualify. Twelve teams make up the Mountain West.
Last year, the Bulldogs went 4-6-1 in conference play (5-12-1 overall) and finished ninth.
“Right now, it’s a number that sticks with us,” he said. “And we’re going to use it to motivate us.”
Fresno State opens the Mountain West on Friday, Sept. 23 at University of Nevada, Reno. San Diego State University, picked to win the Mountain West in the preseason coaches poll, comes to Fresno on Friday, Sept. 30. It will be a big game because San Diego State has fielded strong teams in recent years, Zwaschka said.
“We want to make sure that everything about our game plan, which we feel is ahead or at least on schedule, keeps getting better,” he said. “Then we’ll take our opponents one game at a time.”
While Zwaschka and the players are focused on the 2016 season, they’re kept busy with school and work — and of course, thinking about careers after graduation.
Holsworth is earning her B.S. in business with an emphasis in sports marketing.
After she graduates? “I’m trying to figure that out,” she said.
Delgadillo is working toward her B.S. in criminology with an emphasis in forensic behavioral sciences. Her goal is to become a coroner.
“I watch a lot of Law and Order and I think it’s interesting,” Delgadillo said.
Until then, the team is busy making dreams a reality — one goal at a time.
ROSTER OF THE 2016 SEASON
Sara Jo Ciapponi
Assistant coaches: Lauren McAdam and Sean Steele
THE 2016 SEASON
7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 9 vs. Pacific
7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16 vs. St. Mary’s College
Noon, Sunday, Sept. 18 vs. Montana
Friday, Sept. 23 at Nevada
Sunday, Sept. 25 at UNLV
7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30 vs. San Diego State
Noon, Sunday, Oct. 2 vs. New Mexico
Friday, Oct. 7 at Utah State
Sunday, Oct. 9 at Boise State
2 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14 vs. Colorado State
Noon, Sunday, Oct. 16 vs. Wyoming
Friday, Oct. 21 at Colorado College
Sunday, Oct. 23 at Air Force
7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27 vs. San Jose State