By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Empire prep standouts fill much of the latest Sonoma State women’s soccer incoming class as coach Emiria Salzmann works to build on a winning campaign her first season.
Large at a dozen and familiar with eight Empire players, the group includes a handful Salzmann coached at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“Our 2012 recruiting class is an exciting and special class,” said Salzmann. “It’s our first recruiting class for our coaching staff and consists of many (Sonoma County) players, so we are excited about the possibility of these players playing for their home crowd for many years to come.”
Leading the incoming group is Cara Curtin, the junior college Division III National Player of the Year after helping take Santa Rosa to the California Community College Athletic Association title. The record setting scorer out of Maria Carrillo High is among the newcomers expected to bolster Sonoma State’s offense.
Twin Lauren Curtin also was a junior college first-team All-American, recognized for her playmaking.
The Empire newcomers are a mix of college and high school players: Kareli Rodriguez (Montgomery High, SRJC); Tara Funk (Petaluma, SRJC); Alesha Laranjo (Piner, SRJC); Leslie Bustos-Gomez (Maria Carrillo); Maritza Sosa (Elsie Allen); and Gianna Fistolera (Cardinal Newman).
Incoming players from out of the area include Lauren Uhl (Battle Ground, Wash.), Marissa Marable (Turlock), Kelsey Gini (Acampo) and Rachel Dortch (Roseville).
Sonoma State’s coaches expect the newcomers to help the Seawolves challenge for a postseason berth. Going 8-7-3 last season, Sonoma State was edged out for a California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament berth.
“We have players coming in at every position, and we expect that they will have an immediate and positive impact on our game, filling gaps that were left by our 2011 senior class,” Salzmann said. “They are excited and passionate soccer players, but most importantly, this is a tremendously mature and hard-working group that is equally as committed to their academics.”
The 2012 season opens with an exhibition match against Notre Dame de Namur on Aug. 19 in Rohnert Park.