By John Philip Wyllie
With a new coach, more than a dozen new players and a new system, San Diego State’s women’s soccer team is in the midst of some major changes this season. After struggling to a 7-10-2 record and finishing fourth in the Mountain West Conference a year ago substantial changes were clearly warranted. Head coach Michael Giuliano will be looking to his senior leadership to get the Aztecs back on track. One of those seniors is Aztec co-captain and right flank midfielder, Gina Salinas.
Salinas, a speedster out of Yorba Linda, California, is one of a growing number of Hispanic women competing in Division I soccer. Not too long ago, Latina athletes were somewhat of a rarity in the collegiate ranks, but this season the Aztecs will have a half dozen on their roster.
“I wouldn’t exactly call this a rebuilding year, but we have 15 new freshman and a new coaching staff,” Salinas said. “We are looking to have a more positive year than we have had during the last few. Our players are adapting well to our new style of play and we are looking forward to a winning season. We are off to a better start, but we still need to work out a few kinks.”
Their improvement has of yet not been reflected in results as the Aztecs have struggled to a 2-3-1 record in the early going while playing mostly at home. Tonight they will be shooting for .500 as they begin a five-game road trip during which they will battle teams such as Oklahoma, Dartmouth, and Arizona State. When they return to the SDSU sports deck on October 3, they hope to do it as a much stronger team.
“Our goal is to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and I think that is realistic. I think we can win the Mountain West championship this season,” Salinas added.
Salinas expects defending Mountain West champion Utah and runner-up BYU to present the biggest challenge once league play begins on October 7. One of the keys for the Aztecs this season will be the task of integrating its many new players. One of them, Erin Quinones, has already been impressed with her captain’s talent and affected in a very positive way by her leadership.
“Gina is primarily an attacking player, but she also comes back to help on defense. Her speed on the outside and her ability to create scoring chances with her crosses from the outside are what make her unique,” Quinones said. “She cares about the well-being of the team and she has tried to accommodate all 15 of us freshman. She wants to make sure that our experience is a really positive one. She is hard working and always has a great attitude. Gina is an inspiration to all of us.”