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Freshmen help women’s soccer team make final push for playoffs

Sacramento+State+freshman+forward+Kylee+Kim-Bustillos%2C+back+left%2C+looks+on+as+senior+forward+Andrea+Boehm%2C+middle%2C+sprints+for+the+ball+against+Idaho+State+Oct.+13+at+Hornet+Field.+The+Hornets+defeated+Idaho+State+6-3.
Sacramento State freshman forward Kylee Kim-Bustillos, back left, looks on as senior forward Andrea Boehm, middle, sprints for the ball against Idaho State Oct. 13 at Hornet Field. The Hornets defeated Idaho State 6-3.

Sacramento State freshman forward Kylee Kim-Bustillos, back left, looks on as senior forward Andrea Boehm, middle, sprints for the ball against Idaho State Oct. 13 at Hornet Field. The Hornets defeated Idaho State 6-3.

Carlo Marzan - The State Hornet

Carlo Marzan - The State Hornet

Sacramento State freshman forward Kylee Kim-Bustillos, back left, looks on as senior forward Andrea Boehm, middle, sprints for the ball against Idaho State Oct. 13 at Hornet Field. The Hornets defeated Idaho State 6-3.

Carlo Marzan

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An appearance in the Big Sky Conference playoffs remains questionable for Sacramento State, but one thing looks certain: the women’s soccer team has a bright future thanks to its freshmen core.

Through the help of inexperienced freshmen, the Hornets are 7-7-3 overall and 2-3-3 in conference with a chance to squeak into the postseason. Sac State currently sits at seventh place in the Big Sky with Southern Utah (3-5 Big Sky) and North Dakota (3-4 Big Sky) all at nine team points on the season, but will need to finish in sixth place to make the playoffs. To do this, the Hornets must catch up to Northern Arizona (4-4) and Northern Colorado (4-3) which are tied with 12 points each.

“I think it’s a tremendous group to build on,” Sac State coach Randy Dedini said. “We have another very strong class in 2018 coming in, so that’s going to be the foundation for the next four years, and (I’m) super excited to see them develop and grow, and this team’s just going to continue to get better.”

This isn’t just empty boasting on Dedini’s part, as freshman forward Kylee Kim-Bustillos and freshman midfielder Skylar Littlefield have proven their worth through contributions to the team. Kim-Bustillos leads the Hornets with eight goals, three assists, 19 points and 23 shots on goal. Littlefield has also mustered three points with the help of one assist and one goal.

“Well, it’s definitely a lot of pressure ’cause I feel like I have to do more to score, like a lot of pressure is on me, I’m expected to score,” Kim-Bustillos said, referring to her eight goals scored which is tied for the most in the conference. “But it’s (great) that I’m able to play here and do well at the same time and make an impact on the team.”

On the opposite side of the field, freshman Aaliyah Fesili has been a defensive stalwart at the goalkeeper position. She was named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 26 and has helped lead the Hornets to five shutout performances, two of which went into double overtime.

Although a nagging knee injury might sideline Fesili for some upcoming games, Dedini is ready to make some changes if needed and said he is confident in the freshmen who have stepped up to fill in for injured players.

“It’s just been next girl up, next player up, and they’ve been doing a great job, and so we just got to keep positive,” Dedini said. “If Meghan Glisson, our fourth-string goalkeeper’s in there, then I’m sure she’s going to give it 100 percent, and she’s fully capable of getting the job done for us.”

The 11 freshmen players, as a whole, know there is room for improvement and try to help the team in any way they can while learning from veterans.

“As a freshman, in terms of experience, we learn a lot from the older girls, so that’s really nice,” Hornets freshman midfielder Erika Munoz said. “Since there’s so many of us, we like to be really close, and we all support each other.  As you can tell, on the bench we give a lot of energy to the players on the field, so we just try to contribute as much energy as we can to the players on the field.”

Returners such as senior defender Chelsea Arnold and junior midfielder Caitlin Prothe resemble their head coach, as they’re quick to offer praise to the freshmen core that makes up nearly half of the team.

“The freshmen have stepped up big time, especially with all the injuries we’ve had,” Prothe said. “We’ve gone through three (goalkeepers) almost, and everyone stepped up in that position. Everyone has something to add to this team, and everyone has been able to bring that to the field, every game and in practice.”

The Hornets will get an opportunity to move up in the Big Sky standings when they play Southern Utah at 1 p.m. Sunday at Hornet Field.

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