SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State women's soccer program opens the 2018 season on Monday, August 6 as they travel to San Jose State to take on the Spartans in a preseason exhibition match at 4 p.m.
The Hornets, led by 12th year head coach Randy Dedini, open their regular season on the road with a three-game road trip. The trip includes a weekend tournament against UC Santa Barbara and UNLV in Las Vegas on August 17 and 19, followed by a trip to Fresno State on August 24. Sacramento State's home opener is scheduled for Sunday, August 26 against the crosstown rival UC Davis Aggies.
Last season, Sacramento State finished the year with an 8-8-4 record, including a 3-3-4 mark in Big West competition. The Hornets finished sixth in the conference and advanced to their third straight postseason tournament for the second time since the program began.
With the 2018 season looming, the Hornets will look to make program history and advance to their fourth consecutive postseason for the first time. They'll do so with a talented group that includes three returning 2017 all-Big Sky selections, including last year's Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Kylee Kim-Bustillos and veteran leader and team captain Caitlin Prothe.
The team began training earlier this week (click here for video interview with head coach Randy Dedini and team captains) and has their first exhibition game set for Monday. With that in mind, the Sacramento State media relations office sat down with three-time Big Sky Coach of the Year Randy Dedini to get his perspective on the team and the season.
Hornet Media: You have your first exhibition game on August 6, which is not long after you start working out as a team. What are your priorities for the team in the first week of training?
Randy Dedini: My staff and I have not seen or worked with our team in almost three months, so the first thing we'll do is just come together as a group and reconnect. It'll be important to right away evaluate the overall fitness level of the team. We need to see who is healthy and ready to go. A big part of that is on them individually, who has been putting in the work and training over the summer.
HM: Beyond the first week, what are your goals for this season?
One of the most immediate goals is to quickly come together as a team both on and off the field. We need to develop a strong chemistry, especially with so many new players coming in this year. It's important that we develop our style of play. It's different every year and it comes from the veterans bringing their experience but is shaped each year by the new personalities and players that join the team.
HM: What do you foresee as some of the strengths for this year's team?
RD: In a word, chemistry. I feel really good about the way this team has connected in just these first few days of training. I also believe that our ability to score goals this season is going to be something special. Our midfield is also incredibly strong and very experienced, especially with returners like Caitlin (Prothe) and Mikayla (Reed). Our midfield is going to be the engine that runs our team.
HM: You graduated eight seniors last year, many of which played important roles on your team. How do you anticipate filling those spaces?
RD: I'm very confident that other players are going to step up and fill those spaces. We have a very good group of freshman coming in with this new class and I know our returners are all eager and ready to take that next step and fill those important roles for us.
HM: Who are your team captains, and talk about the importance of those players.
RD: I already mentioned two of them, actually. Caitlin Prothe and Mikayla Reed are two of our captains, as well as Kaylyn Evans. They are the leaders on this team and really set a tone each and every day both on and off the field. They are absolutely critical to our team in mentoring our younger players and we're all confident in their abilities to lead us to success.
HM: Of the 23 players on the roster, 17 are underclassmen. Do you approach the season any differently knowing you have a younger squad?
RD: We are young, yes, but we have great leadership and we have a hunger to win. Every time we take the field, we're looking to compete and to win no matter what our age. We also have some really great talent on this team and that is something that can take over regardless of age. What I think is more important when thinking about a young team is that it means we have a lot of new players, so the most important goal becomes getting everyone on the same page and doing so quickly.
HM: One of the strengths of last year's team was a defense that allowed less than one goal per game (0.99 GAA). With the departure of defenders like Chelsea Arnold and Kylee Smith (All-Big Sky First Team and Second Team, respectively), do you consider defense a concern or are you confident the team has players to fill those roles?
RD: Kylee and Chelsea were obviously very talented and a big part of our team, and they will be hard to replace, but we have a lot of talented defenders who I know are ready to step up and take their place. Our defense is about more than just the back line, too. Our strong defense has always relied on everyone - from the goalkeeper to the attackers - doing their job at all times on the field.
HM: Before last season, you spoke about having your best and deepest goalkeeper group at Sacramento State. Because of injury, you needed all of that depth last season. How do you evaluate your goalkeeper group heading into the 2018 season?
RD: I have great confidence in all three of our goalkeepers and I'm looking at all three of them to make an impact with the team this season. It is one of those situations where we know and they know that whichever one of them gives our team the best chance to win is going to play. But while they're competing in a sense, they also understand their roles and support each other. And as you mentioned, last season we ended up relying on all four of our goalkeepers at different points during the year so they all need to be ready to go at any time.
HM: Kylee Kim-Bustillos had a breakout freshman season, leading last year's team in goals and assists while being named the Big Sky's Newcomer of the Year. Do you expect the offense to feature Kylee often again in 2018?
RD: Kylee is a special talent and she's obviously going to feature heavily in our offense. She is the type of player that makes others around her better, as well. But she drew a lot of attention for her season last year and we expect teams to focus on her a fair amount, allowing our other talented players to benefit. Even if opposing defenses choose to focus heavily on Kylee, we all still expect her to have another strong season.
HM: Speaking of Newcomer of the Year, that is an award that has been claimed by a Hornet in back-to-back seasons (Mikayla Reed, 2016; Kylee Kim-Bustillos, 2017). Does this season's team hold another star newcomer?
RD: Yes, we do. We've talked a bit about our incoming class being special and I know that many of them are going to have an immediate impact on our team. We've kind of set a tradition with back-to-back Newcomer of the Year awards. If our team plays the way we expect them to and know they can, then hopefully the rest of the conference recognizes the newcomers' accomplishments.