By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A building block in the foundation of San Diego State women’s soccer success is Tiffany Hurst, the onetime Empire and Montgomery High standout.
A four-year starter at San Diego State, the defender turned midfielder was a top scorer and team leader her senior season.
The 2012 campaign will be remembered as a breakthrough season for Aztecs women’s soccer.
Hurst helped burnish San Diego State’s winning tradition.
“Our seniors are such a special group who will be missed greatly. They are true leaders and some of the brightest young women that I have been around,” said head coach Mike Friesen.
“They left a legacy that will be long lasting and will carry this program to even more success in the future.”
From her stalwart defense to game-changing moments, capped by striking the winner against Cal in this season’s NCAA tournament, Hurst was a playmaker in the major college game.
“A lot of people looked to me to be a team leader. The coaches talked with me a lot,” Hurst said. “A lot of times I was trying to set the tone for the team.”
Coming to San Diego State, Hurst realized her goal to crack the starting lineup as a freshman. Whether at right or center back, Hurst anchored the Aztecs’ defense her first three seasons.
With a stronger group of defenders heading into the 2012 season, Hurst was moved to center midfielder, her position in high school.
“You’re able to attack here and there. I like that you get to control the game,” Hurst said.
Embracing another switch in positions, Hurst exemplified San Diego State’s team-first approach.
“Tiffany was the prime example of a leader. There was never a doubt that Tiffany wanted it,” said Haley Palmer, another former Empire star, from Windsor High.
To play a principal part in San Diego State’s greatest season ever was a fortunate result of Hurst sitting out the 2010 campaign to catch up on credits needed to graduate.
Before the season began, Hurst and other returning players set goals for winning the Mountain West Conference and making an NCAA tournament run. To accomplish both started with summer conditioning and continued with season long competition for positions.
“We knew we had the talent. It was just a change in attitude,” Hurst said.
The moment when Hurst sensed a special season was unfolding came against Portland.
Playing on the road, San Diego State went up by two goals with Hurst scoring first. Portland battled back to tie.
Yet the Aztecs didn’t crumble, pulling out the win over a longtime NCAA power.
Then came the NCAA second-round win over Cal.
In front of another large home crowd, San Diego State rallied from a one-goal halftime deficit.
Late in the contest the Aztecs moved up field for a serve to the goal that California headed for a clear. Hurst stepped up to settle and then struck the ball into the left side of the goal for the game winner.
“That was one of the craziest moments,” Hurst said. “You could definitely feel the energy.”
Her passion for the game still primed, Hurst is staying in shape in hopes of playing professionally. Whether in the United States or Europe, she will strive to stay on the field.
“It’s something I don’t want to stop after doing so well and having a great season like that,” Hurst said.