By David Wilson
Coming off a trip to the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in his first year as head coach, Jay Mason has signed eight incoming freshmen to strengthen the squad.
For Mason, last year was an opportunity to get used to the style and challenges the CCAA provides and tried to address some of those characteristics in this class.
“I think our athleticism is going to go way up,” Mason said. “We have a couple kids with really high soccer IQs that are going to help us in the more tactical part of the games.”
Mason felt that last year’s team lacked competition in certain positions, leading to players not being pushed to raise their game.
The new class of recruits will be part of creating a “competitive atmosphere” to raise the overall level of the team both in practice and in games.
Regardless of position, the first thing Mason looks for in a potential player is what their character is like by talking to a player’s club or high school coach about a player’s response to different situations.
“When I go and watch them, I look in the moments where maybe they lose the ball, what are they doing? How do they react?” Mason said. “If their team gets scored on are they positive or are they on their teammates?”
According to Mason, the trend in women’s soccer recruiting requires recruiting classes to be signed more than a year in advance.
Currently, recruits for the class of 2018 are in the final stages of being signed.
On an individual level, the time from identifying a player to signing a player takes about five to seven months according to Mason and includes watching players at multiple practices and games, specifically against quality opponents because “at the next level everyone’s good.”
The timeline for integrating the new class into the team starts before preseason begins on August 15.
In late July, returning players run a college prep camp attended by the incoming class, the class of 2018 and other players that could be recruits in the future.
The camp is an opportunity for returners and recruits to develop relationships and allows the coaching staff to see how the incoming freshmen cope with the college competition level.
At this point in the offseason, the team is practicing for about an hour and half each day and have played spring games that included a 1-1 tie against Azusa Pacific University and a 1-0 win against Biola.
“It’s more of a developmental season,” Mason said. “I want to give the kids that didn’t play much in the fall more time and experience just to see how they fit going into our fall season.”
Through fundraising, the team invested in wearable GPS units that track distance covered, top speed and the number of sprints in a practice or game.
“It helps us monitor their training load, their recovery time,” Mason said.
Junior center back Emily Sanchez has seen the level of competition in training rise since the implementation of the GPS.
“That goes along with the culture and what we are trying to establish as a team, we definitely want it to be a lot more competitive out here,” Sanchez said. “It’s honestly a fun way because we’re all competitive as it is, it just keeps everyone accountable.”
Sanchez and her center defensive partner sophomore Natalie Di Angelo played side by side for the first time last season and are using this offseason to try and strengthen their connection and be leaders from the back.
Di Angelo mentioned working on becoming more of a vocal presence on the field as part of hers and Sanchez’s growth as a solid center back pairing.
“Going into next season, we still need to continue that and really focus on our team and be that person where our teammates can lean on us and really trust us as the two center backs and leaders on this team,” Di Angelo said.
David Wilson / The Poly Post
Sophomore defender Alison Kung (left) and freshman forward Amanda Duran at a recent training session.
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