After two consecutive seasons of not losing a single conference game, the Cabrillo College women’s soccer team has come out of the gate slow this season.
The Seahawks had expectations of competing for a third straight Coast Conference South Division title but accomplishing that feat is starting to feel out of reach following a 2-0 loss to Cañada College on Oct. 10.
Cabrillo dropped to 3-8-1 overall and 1-3 in conference play after suffering back-to-back losses including one to Las Positas, 4-0, on Oct. 6.
Despite their recent success in the last several years, Seahawks are not content with past championships and aim to play up to their full potential.
“Every year we need to work hard again,” Cabrillo head coach Gladys Mondragon said. “It doesn’t matter what happened the previous year, it’s reestablishing it again.”
Cabrillo was able to beat Foothill College in a narrow 1-0 win on Oct. 3, yet it’s the early season struggles that have been the discourse of the first part of the 2023 campaign.
They faced some tough competition in the preseason including Sierra College (7-1-3) and a solid roster in Foothill.
However, the Seahawks scored just three goals in the previous eight games—one of which resulted in a win.
Last season’s team was successful in large part due to a team full of experienced sophomores who understood the ins and outs of the program.
Cabrillo have moved on from key pieces such as standout Aubree Westjohn, but acquired a team full of young players hungry to prove themselves.
This year, they have just seven returning players with an additional 13 freshmen.
“I think every team has a hard time finishing but I know we will overcome that and we’ll develop confidence to create opportunities for goals,” Mondragon said.
The Seahawks have an average of just one goal per game, which means offensive conversion is the emphasis for the Seahawks moving forward into conference play.
Mondragon believes the team’s offensive strengths include working together as a team and positioning fast into the attack.
One factor of why it is so difficult to maintain a perennial competitive program at the community college level is because the team has a completely different structure every year.
Even so, many players feel like they are finally coming together and that will translate into success on the field.
“This year it was just like a whole new team where no one really knew each other at all,” said sophomore forward Luz Ruiz, who graduated from Soquel High. “I think we just need more team bonding.”
The Seahawks have shown flashes of their previous dominance, and believe the main thing needed in order to start clicking once again is communication between players on the field.
Cabrillo has demonstrated this in games such as the 6-0 beatdown against Feather River on Aug. 28.
With just eight games remaining in the season before the playoffs, each match is crucial for their seeding.
“Our confidence is not where it should be because we compare ourselves a lot to last year’s team,” said sophomore defender Kayla Puga, who is a Gilroy High graduate. “I feel like we could be just as good, if not better.”
In order for the Seahawks to win a third straight conference championship, they need to start putting points on the board to win games while the league is still up for grabs.
In 2022, the undefeated Seahawks finished with a 9-0 record in Coast Conference play. They managed to edge City College of San Francisco in the teams’ regular season finale en route to a second straight conference title.
San Francisco also started out slower than usual. They currently own a 7-5 overall record, but sit atop of the South Division standings with a 4-0 record.
“I think one of our strengths is working together as a team, building through the thirds, and positioning fast into the attack,” Mondragon said. “The wins gave us confidence but the losses also gave us the opportunity to learn what some of our strengths and weaknesses are that we need to work on.”
The vast majority of Seahawks are freshmen still growing accustomed to their roles within the team system.
With both goalkeepers and the majority of forwards having never played at the college level before, they knew it would take time to all get on the same page.
Most players played prep soccer in Santa Cruz County before attending Cabrillo. Several of them already knew each other even before playing together.
Cabrillo will play at CC of San Francisco on Friday at 1:30pm.
“Our goal is to win the conference, so in order for that to happen we need to win every game,” Mondragon said. “We know that’s not easy and we need to put in the work.”