Kaiser grad provides Fresno finishing kick
By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hottest women's soccer team in the Western Athletic Conference is Fresno State, with five straight victories including 2-0 over previously unbeaten UTEP and 2-1 over Cal State Fullerton, at the time ranked 24th by Soccer Buzz magazine.
David Hunter Fresno State University
Fresno State junior Erin Sayegusa is looking forward to a visit from Hawai'i, which has several players she knows well.
David Hunter Fresno State University
Sayegusa will renew old friendships and rivalries Sunday when the University of Hawai'i Wahine come to Fresno. Third place in the WAC and the prized tournament seed that goes with it may be at stake.
"Erin is a huge part of our program and it's good to see her hit her stride," said Fresno State coach Tracy Welp. "She has great vision on the soccer field. She is very, very skilled and has a very quick shot."
And best of all, Welp added, "the last several games she's been at the right place at the right time."
On the winning goal at Fullerton Sunday, Sayegusa collected a rebound from a deflected shot and blasted a strike. The previous Sunday, at Boise State, she scored her second goal of the game three minutes into overtime for a 4-3 victory.
"It's just magic," Sayegusa said. "Since the WAC season started, we've been putting together 90-minute games."
Sayegusa was Fresno State's leading scorer last season (5 goals, 3 assists, 13 points) and has 5-111 this season. She ranks seventh on the Bulldogs' career list in goals (11) and points (28) and eighth in assists (6).
She starts at central midfielder and trades off as targeting forward to give the Bulldogs fresh legs at the point of attack.
Sayegusa laughs at the suggestion that her speed is an asset. "Getting the ball at my feet is my strength," she said. "I'd rather have it at my feet and then take on a defender than run it down in space."
She credits Welp's scheduling with Fresno's late-season run. "Coach scheduled really hard games at the beginning (Top 10 contenders) UCLA and Cal. We'd lose but come out of it learning something new."
The Bulldogs hope to show Hawai'i what they have learned Sunday. "I played with Arlene (Devitt) for Leahi and against Natasha (Kai) and some of the others many times. I'm excited to play them again," Sayegusa said.
Would she prefer to be their teammate? "It is good to live away from home and grow up," Sayegusa said. "It's also good to go back home."
Azusa Pacific (Calif.)
Freshman Jolie Nitta (Mililani '02) is about two years ahead of the development schedule that coach Jason Surrell expected for her.
Nitta scored a hat trick (three goals) Thursday in Azusa Pacific's 6-1 victory over Fresno Pacific.
"She has accomplished things this year that you wouldn't expect a player to do until her junior and senior years," Surrell said . "You get her the ball and she can create and make things happen.
"We were a little concerned about her size (she's 5 feet 2), how she would handle this level, but she has made a big impact in her freshman year," Surrell said.
Nitta, who starts at center midfielder for the NAIA's No. 8-ranked team, scored two of her three goals against Fresno Pacific "on great moves inside the box," Surrell said. The third was a penalty kick.
"She's an extremely technical player and very skilled," he added.
Delayed freshman Chela Gray (Iolani '00 of Kane'ohe) scored her third game-winning goal of the season in a 1-0 victory over Humboldt State Saturday at Bellingham.
Gray, who attended the University of Washington for two years but did not play for the Huskies, added her team-leading eighth goal Monday, plus an assist, in a 4-0 victory at Central Washington that propelled Western Washington into first place in the Great Northwest Conference with a 7-3 record.
Senior goalkeeper Shaye Anderson (Parker '99 of Kamuela) earned her fourth shutout of the season in Monday's victory at Ellensburg.
Sophomore Bobby Shinn has 10 goals and two assists for 26 points for York (10-4-2). Bobby and twin brother Randy Shinn both transferred from Missouri Valley this year. They were both first-team all-state players at Pearl City High in 2001.