NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The old adage that "defense wins championships" finally paid off for the Cal State Northridge women's soccer team in 2012. Boasting the Big West Conference's Goalkeeper and Defensive Player of the Year, the Matadors allowed 15 goals and posted 11 shutouts during the first-ever run to the Big West Championship and NCAA Tournament berth.
Of course, attrition and graduation have stripped the club of some of those resources as they enter the 2013 season. And that's the reality for all teams at the intercollegiate level. So that is why CSUN head coach Keith West believes his team is not necessarily replacing talent, so much as the Matadors are just retooling.
For the upcoming 2013 season, the Matadors are bringing in seven newcomers to the squad to help in that effort. As a group, Jennifer Waldo, Camille Watson, Claire Damon, Vanessa Mercado, and Lauren Parrish all bring outstanding credentials and the talent and skill to help continue the Matadors' strong defensive tradition.
Waldo is a 5-8 prospect from San Juan, Calif., who played her club ball for the San Juan Spirit. A two-sport athlete in track and soccer, Waldo earned three letters for the Bruins of Ponderosa High School.
"Jennifer is a physical and aggressive soccer player who is a solid addition to our defense," West said. "She is a great athlete with good pace who will challenge for time at outside back right away."
Watson is a 5-4 prospect from San Leandro, Calif., who played her club ball for San Juan Mustangs. As a senior at San Leandro High School, Watson finished with 19 goals and 39 points in 15 games. She also competed for the Pirates in track and field in the long jump, triple jump and relays.
"Camille is a tough defender equally capable of excelling on the outside or as a center back," West said. "She is a gifted athlete who adds quality and depth to our entire defense."
Damon comes to CSUN as a 5-7 prospect from Claremont, Calif., She played her club ball for the Claremont Stars. A four-year letterwinner at Claremont High School, Damon totaled nine goals, four assists and 22 points in over 100 career matches for the Wolfpack. She was named to the All-Sierra League Second Team as a junior and First Team as a senior. The Wolfpack won the 2012 CIF-Southern Section Division III Championship in 2012.
"Claire is a tall, strong player who will win challenges in the air because of her aggressive style," West added. "She is a technical and versatile player that we are happy to have on our squad."
Mercado is a 5-6 prospect from San Jose, Calif., who played her club ball for the Central Valley Chilipeppers, who won the Cal North U-18 State Cup in 2013. She played her high school soccer at Oak Grove High School, where named to the All-Blossom Valley Athletic League (BVAL) First Team and also picked up the league's Junior of the Year award in 2011.
"Vanessa is another athlete that brings toughness to our back line," West said. "College soccer tends to be a lot more physical than club play and Vanessa's style suits her well to that change."
Parish is another multi-sport athlete joining the Matadors this season, as she competed in soccer, volleyball, track and football for Paraclete High School in Lancaster, Calif. She was the kicker for the Spirit football team that won the Alpha League Championship in 2012 and she picked up All-Alpha League First Team honors for the soccer program as both a junior and senior.
"Lauren is an athletic and tough-minded player that gives it her all everyday," said West. "We are excited to bring in another quality player from the Lancaster area. She comes highly recommended and we are very excited to add her to the program."
Of course, carving out a role on the CSUN defense will be a tough task for the newcomers. The unit is anchored by senior captain Chloe McDaniel, the 2012 Big West Defensive Player of the Year and an NSCAA All-West Region Third Team selection.
Joining McDaniel as a returning starter is junior Leandra Walker. She started all 22 matches at outside back for the Matadors in their banner 2012 campaign. Another upperclassman, senior Wendy Warner, has appeared in 37 matches during her career and recorded her first career goal in the 2012 season.
The team also boasts a returning sophomore in Tabatha Dickson, who appeared in 10 matches last season, and two redshirt freshmen (Briana Geffre, Nicole Thompson) who have endured the rigors of a full year of training and now get the opportunity to play in the official season.
West expects his defense to excel. It has been a hallmark of the seven previous Matador teams that he has coached. Based on the mixture of returning talent and newcomer intrigue, those expectations figure to get met in 2013.
2013 Women's Soccer Previews: