Matador Minute with Keith West --- Women's Soccer
Six weeks before the start of his seventh training camp as the head coach of the Cal State Northridge women’s soccer program, Keith West is excited. Having reached the Big West Semifinals the past three seasons, West believes the 2012 season offers solid prospects for reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
A source for his optimism is a squad laden with upperclassmen leadership. In all, the 2012 Matadors will feature a cast of nine seniors who have helped transform the program into an annual contender. This group spans all across the pitch and features several All-Big West performers, including Cynthia Jacobo, Melissa Fernandez and Katie Russ.
Q: In general, how are you feeling on the cusp of the 2012 season?
A: “I love our leadership and experience. Some of these young women have been at CSUN for five years and have really helped shaped the culture of the program. I am excited to spend time with our senior class for one more campaign because we’ve had some great memories over the past few seasons. Being with this group of seniors has been an exciting journey and I am looking forward to where it leads to in 2012. With all the home games we have scheduled, this is a great time for the CSUN campus and community.”
Q: Looking at the defense, why does this group represent a consistent strength of the program?
A: “This group of defensive players is one of the best I’ve coached, men’s or women’s, since I started at CSUN. Both Katie Russ and Chloe McDaniel have been mainstays on the club and provide outstanding leadership for the rest of the group. Stephanie Norton is another senior who has shown unbelievable character with tremendous fight and attitude. Wendy Warner is a junior who has seen the field extensively in her first two seasons and compliments her teammates well. Finally, of the returning players, we’re excited to get Brittany Corcoran back from a redshirt season and she what dynamic she can add to the group.”
Q: At midfield, how do you see the group evolving?
A: “Unlike defense or at the top of our attack, the midfield will provide ample opportunities for some of our younger players. While there are a couple of unknowns, that just means some of these young women are going to have to step up their work rate. The competition among this group should be especially fierce and I look forward to watching it develop in camp.”
Q: Describe your level of excitement about a group of heavily experienced forwards?
A: “Like our defense, this group is filled with young women who have done a tremendous job raising the level of expectations for the program. Melissa Fernandez, Jessa Yukihiro, Nicole Cruz, Stephanie Galarze and Marisa Miller are all seniors who have shown the quality to finish and set-up their teammates. Add to that the return of Brittanie Sakajian and Nicollette Smith and we have a corps of attacking players that should produce.”
Q: How does it feel to have so many home matches on the slate?
A: “We are thrilled to have so many home contests and to bring some of the finest talent in the nation to the San Fernando Valley. In the past, our team has sacrificed a lot in playing these quality sides mostly on the road or at neutral locations. Now, with the installation of the lights, we’re able to bring these squads to our home rather than traveling to them.”
Q: How do you feel the Big West Conference is shaping up?
A: “I really like where our conference is heading. As a whole, the league programs have raised the production and expectations for Big West soccer over the past several seasons. That has allowed the conference to elevate the level of talent competing and makes the league schedule that much more exciting.”
Q: Finally, two of your assistant coaches received degrees this past year. What were your thoughts on their academic achievements?
A: “I am very proud of what Juan Plascencia and Miguel Ruiz have accomplished in the classroom. Juan wrapped up his Bachelor’s Degree while Miguel completed his Master’s work. I think that’s why we as coaches are here at an institution of higher learning: to show student-athletes that it takes hard work and dedication to accomplish great things. They both serve as great role models for our young women and the entire campus community.”