Marine Cano, head coach of the CSUDH women’s soccer team, has one thing on his mind as his squad begins the 2022 season: “Respect.”
After a disappointing 5-11-1 record in the 2021 season, the team was placed at the bottom of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) standings in this year’s preseason coaches’ poll. “I was kind of mad at first,” says Cano. “But now I’m kind of happy they picked us last. It really fired us up. We’re starting the season with a big chip on our shoulders. It will be great motivation.”
For his part, Cano believes that this year’s Toros can make some noise in the CCAA. “We’ve got a group of young women who want to bring some notoriety to CSUDH,” he says. “We’re going to do our best, and I think we’re going to be able to steal some games. I think if everybody’s healthy, we have a good team, but we’ve got to prove it.”
This is Cano’s second stint as head coach of the Toros. He helped found the program in 1984 and quickly established CSUDH as a powerhouse. During his 10 years guiding the program, CSUDH reached the Final Four twice and won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 1991–the first national title in Toro athletics history.
He returned to CSUDH in 2018, after successful stints at UC Irvine and Soka University of America. For Cano, his brief during his second tenure is straightforward. “I got hired because CSUDH wanted to get that trophy back.”
After a successful 2019 season that saw the Toros reach the CCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years, the 2020 season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects lingered throughout the disappointing 2021 campaign, as the team suffered the departures of several key players due to the pandemic and its ensuing complications.
For 2022, Cano has brought in 11 new recruits whose talent will help bolster the squad. “This season, we focused on recruiting goalkeepers. We need to keep the ball out of the net,” he says. “We also needed better speed, and we wanted athletes who have the passion to work really hard. I think we’ve got that this year.”
As it is every season, the CCAA is expected be among the best conferences in the nation. Cano knows the team has its work cut out for them. “The top four teams are legit,” he says. The conference powers are expected to be Sonoma State, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State LA, and Cal State Stanislaus, but Cano is confident that this year’s Toros are up to the challenge. “On the day, we can beat anybody. That’s what I’m banking on.”
His goal for the season is to finish in the top six of the CCAA and qualify for the end-of-season tournament. To get there, his plan is to utilize the team’s improved speed. “We want to play fast,” he says. “You can’t slow it down in this conference. You have to defend and then it has to turn immediately into offense. You’ve got to be very fit to play like that, so we’re really focusing on getting the women in shape for the grind of a long season.”
The 2022 season has gotten off to a slow start for the women, with losses to Azuza Pacific, Colorado Mesa, and Concordia, and draws with Western Colorado and British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University. They hope to turn things around in front of their home crowd this weekend, when they play Fresno Pacific and Cal State Monterey Bay on the CSUDH campus.
“We’ve got to get this program back to where it was,” says Cano. “We’ve got a young team, a fast team, but are they strong enough and do we have the experience with our returning players to be able to win the conference? Two years ago, we achieved a lot of our goals. We just need more consistency. We need to really be on fire when the conference season starts.”
The CSUDH women’s soccer team continues their home schedule against Fresno Pacific University at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, and Cal State Monterey Bay at noon on Saturday, Sept. 17. Both matches are at Dignity Health Sports Park Field #3.
Student admission is free.