Sonoma State goal keeper Allison Hadidian didn’t give up a goal in six straight matches for the undefeated California Collegiate Athletic Association Seawolves.
It’s hard to believe that two years ago, nearing graduation from Del Mar High School in San Jose, California, the 5-foot-9 Hadidian was ready to put soccer behind her as she moved on to college.
I didn’t know if I was good enough to play soccer in college, I wasn’t recruited by very many colleges. So, I wasn’t sure I should even keep playing.
“I didn’t know if I was good enough to play soccer in college,” the sophomore star said with the Seawolves carrying a 7-0 record thanks in large part to her dominance in goal. “I wasn’t recruited by very many colleges. So, I wasn’t sure I should even keep playing.”
Sonoma State head coach Emiria Salzmann Dunn, however, took a chance on Hadidian. It could be that the keeper allowing only four goals in 2,615 minutes during her four-year varsity career at Del Mar attracted the coach’s attention. Maybe, it was Hadidian’s 28 prep shutouts.
“After I’d decided not to play in college, the (Sonoma State) coaches came and changed my mind,” Hadidian said. “They saw something in me when I didn’t feel like anyone did. It was nice and it is nice know to know that I have coaches who are with me 100 percent of the time.”
They saw something in me when I didn’t feel like anyone did. It was nice and it is nice know to know that I have coaches who are with me 100 percent of the time.
Hadidian raves about Salzman Dunn’s ability to prepare a perennial NCAA Division II power to play and practice at peak efficiency every single day. She doesn’t spare praise for assistant coach Jody Lingafeldt either.
“We’ve got a really well-rounded coaching staff,” Hadidian said. “Jody is great with strategy, the tactical part of the game. Emiria is the best motivational coach I’ve ever been around. It’s tough to describe really, but I’ve never experienced anything like the way Emiria motivates us.”
Hadidian had her six-match shutout streak snapped when the Seawolves whipped Notre Dame de Namur, 5-1. Sonoma State is poised for another battle for the CCAA title with top-rated Cal State Stanislaus, but she’s still anxious to deflect the attention from herself to her teammates.
“We have a really attacking defense,” she said. “That attacking defense opens things up. We’ve gotten two goals from our outside backs that are result of that defense attacking and pushing all the time.”
Hadidian doesn’t want to talk about her 16 saves and .017 goals against average over 542 minutes played because she insists the credit should be spread to a back line that includes senior defender Megan Foy, sophomore Taylor Enzler and freshman Cecilia Sifuentes.
“I’ve never been on a team that cares as much as these girls do,” Hadidian said from the SSU campus in Rohnert Park, Calif, located 45 minutes north of San Francisco. “We’re all here to play soccer and win games.”
Don’t ask Hadidian about the standings, the national rankings or the heated rivalry with Stanislaus that produced three thrilling matches a year ago.
“Our team doesn’t look at the rankings or really worry about the standings either,” she said. “We stick to what we’re doing every day at practice and what we need to do to keep improving.
“We believe we’re on the same level as Stanislaus. We tied them once last year and lost twice, but every match was winnable for us. We had opportunities to win, but just couldn’t take advantage.”
Hadidian can’t remember specifically why she took advantage of her early opportunities to play soccer.
“I started playing when I was five years old, so I really don’t recall why I started,” she said. “I loved the game more and more as I grew up. I played volleyball in middle school, but I loved soccer. It’s one of the only sports where you can be truly creative.”
Salzmann Dunn doesn’t pay attention to the national rankings either. After playing Stanislaus to a 2-2 tie last year in Rohnert Park in a battle of unbeatens, the Seawolves’ coach offered no insight as to how the outcome might impact either team nationally.
“I don’t even know what the rankings are,” she said after Hadidian staved off a swarming Stanislaus attack with save after save. “I haven’t looked at the rankings yet this season.”
The coach’s attitude explains the goalkeeper’s desire to put the team and consistent improvement ahead of all else.
“We bond during our double-day practices in the summer,” Hadidian said. “It’s just such intense training that it develops a bond that we carry into the season. I ran for an hour every day all summer. Then, I went to goalkeeper training sessions. And, I played summer matches. But, it’s the spring when we lift weights and take an indoor soccer class that our team gets together to prepare for our season.”
Even with a red hot keeper, a tough defense and high-scoring senior Lauren Curtin leading the 7-0 Sealwolves, Salzmann Dunn won’t let her club take success for granted.
“We’re young. The (CCAA) is more competitive,” the coach said of the program that has produced consecutive second-place finishes in the conference and NCAA Division II tournament appearances. “Time will tell.”
Hadidian will help lead the Seawolves however far they go in the CCAA regular season and beyond. Nothing that happens on the field, however, can take away from the keeper what she feels is most important.
“We play for each other and the coaches,” Hadidian said. “I know these girls are there for me 100 percent and I really couldn’t ask for something better than that.”
Ted Sillanpaa is an award-winning sports writer and columnist based in northern California.