NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
It is a rare thing, to see an out-of-shape midfielder. The stewards of the action, midfielders hold important responsibilities at both ends of the pitch. Unlike the forwards or defense that are seemingly marooned to certain positions on the field, midfielders serve as catalysts throughout the game. And because of that, they must almost always be in motion, ready to transition from offense to defense or vice versa.
As it enters the 2013 season, the Cal State Northridge women's soccer program is bringing in five freshmen to training camp, each one looking to make an impact: Kyla Dieckman, Bianca Lowe, Kiley Norkus, Sierra Molina and Ariana Tran.
At 6-0, Dieckmann brings in height as well as the requisite skill needed to excel in Division I. She prepped at South Torrance High School and played her club ball for Ajax. She had 13 goals, 10 assists and 36 points in her senior season.
"Kyla has the size and physicality to excel at this level. She is versatile on both offense and defense and her size always makes her a threat in the air," West said.
Norkus is a 5-8 prospect from San Luis Obispo, Calif., the hometown of Big West rival Cal Poly. She played her club ball for the Camarillo Eagles and attended San Luis Obispo High School. Norkus picked up MVP honors after both the 2009 and 2010 seasons while playing for the Tigers and earned three letters as a forward for the team.
"Kiley is a very talented player who is great in possession," West said. "She has the skill and ability to play outside or up at the front of the attack as a forward."
Lowe is a 5-5 prospect from Hayward, Calif., where she played club ball for the Bay Oaks Elite. She attended Bishop O'Dowd High School and also competed for the track team in the 200, 400, 800 and 4x4. In her senior season on the pitch, Lowe won the team's Coaches Award and earned Honorable Mention recognition from the West Alameda Athletic Conference. Her team won three straight league titles from 2011-13 and took home the CIF crown her junior and senior years.
"Bianca is a dangerous player off the dribble who can beat her opponent in many ways," West said. "She is an athletic player with good pace who projects as a solid two-way player for our squad."
Molina is 5-3 and hails from Corona, Calif., where she played club ball for the California Blues Youth and high school soccer at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. As a midfielder for the Mustangs she picked up MVP accolades and she also competed for the track and cross country programs.
"Sierra is a well-rounded player who will bring some toughness to the squad," West added. "She shows good agility and the pace to get back into the play on defense."
Tran comes to CSUN from Santee, Calif., where she prepped at West Hills High School and played her club ball for San Diego Surf. She finished with 10 goals, two assists and 22 points in her senior season with the West Hills Wolfpack, winning MVP honors. Tran was named to the Grossmont Union All-League First Team in her junior and senior year and was recognized as a scholar-athlete both seasons.
"Ariana is another hard worker that will push our returning players from day one at training camp," West explained. "She has good technical ability and a wonderful spirit that will endear her to the team."
Among the returners, senior Amanda Smith figures to be a prominent fixture in the CSUN midfield. She has totaled a goal, seven assists and nine points in her three previous seasons with the Matadors.
Fellow senior Haley Chee will also look to end her career on a strong note in 2013. The Honolulu native, who will return home for match in November, has appeared in 39 matches and has one goal in her CSUN career.
Sophomore Taylor Hobson figures to be a constant fixture for the Matador midfield. In her freshman season, she slammed home game-winning goals at UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State en route to All-Big West Honorable Mention and All-Freshman Team honors.
Other returning midfielders include juniors Hannah Wissler and Melissa Lopez. Wissler has appeared in 26 matches through her first two seasons while Lopez has looked strong since returning from an injury that robbed her of the 2012 campaign.
Soraya Ziarati will add more depth and experience to the Matador midfield after using a redshirt in 2011 and appearing in two matches last year. Amilee Smith returns to the field after an injury sidelined her all of last season. She appeared in 13 matches, starting 10, as a freshman in 2011.
"It is great to have both Soraya and Amilee back for us this year," said West. "The work and dedication they have put in to be ready for the season will pay off for the team."
Whoever it is patrolling the midfield for CSUN in 2013, West knows he has the players capable of holding down both the offensive and defensive end.
2013 Women's Soccer Previews: