How do the Fresno City College women’s soccer team follow up on an undefeated season?
It won’t be easy for the defending state champions with the loss of 14 players who were starters.
National player of the year Danielle Pacheco is playing for Fresno State this season, and goalie María Magaña is playing professionally in Iceland.
However, there is still plenty of hunger following the team’s first state title in 29 years following a 25-0-2 season.
Ariana Rodríguez, a midfielder, and Taylor Alkire, a forward, and Maddie Fischer, also a midfielder, were there as freshman for the historic run. Alkire matched Pacheco’s 25 goals last season. All three players are entering their final year before transferring to four-year universities.
“When they blew that final whistle, the first thing we did was just hug each other. We said ‘Good job!’ We just pushed each other in the win,” said Rodríguez, a 2017 Orosi High School graduate.
“We’re going back for that second ring. It’s go big or go home.”
Rodríguez arrived after helping Orosi to a Division V final her senior season.
Having scored 25 goals last season, Alkire returns as an experienced scorer in the league. As of now, she’s thinking of bettering her record.
“It’s on us to get the job done. It’s not necessarily ‘Can we?’ but ‘We need to get back to where we were,’ and we’re working hard like we did last summer,” said Alkire, a former multi-sport athlete from Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore, where she helped the team to a pair of Valley titles in Division IV her sophomore and junior seasons, and a second-place finish her senior year.
Alkire said there’s some pressure on the squad to come back from an unbeaten season.
“We’re putting in the effort when people are not watching. The feeling like we’re doing it for our community, not necessarily for us, but for everybody. My squad did everything for me. I couldn’t have gotten the goals without them feeding me the ball. It’s a team effort. I didn’t get those; like those come from my team,” said Alkire.
“I definitely think there’s a little pressure. I feel they will be coming at us a lot harder for obvious reasons, but it’s just more of a reason for us to work hard,” said Fischer, a left midfielder, who was nearby.
Former Hanford West player Bella Hopkins managed a spot on the squad. Hopkins scored 13 goals for Hanford upon switching to the forward position after three seasons as a defender.
“I knew coming here that this was going to be a big challenge. I hold them so high because of what they accomplished, but I believe in myself and give it all I’ve got,” said Hopkins.
Head coach Oliver Germond enters his 18th season. Last year’s state victory was the first since 1988 under former women’s coach Bill Neal.
Germond is known for recruiting from the Central Valley.
“It was very emotional because you make a lot of sacrifices to be successful. It felt good as a coach and for the program,” said Germond.
“That was one of the best parts of the story because when they announced the players from our team, and the players from Santa Barbara City College, about half their team was international kids.”
Germond has been named Central Valley Conference Coach of the Year 11 times. In 2014, he was named the National Coach of the Year. He’s coached the FCC women to five state semifinal appearances.
The Fresno City College women’s team begins the season on Aug. 28 at Feather River in Sacramento, a tournament at Ventura College on Aug. 31 then Cypress at Ventura College.
The first home match is Sept. 7 against Cerritos College.