Dominican University starting outside midfielder Tori Selesia admits she had a touch of the jitters.
On Sept. 22, 2010, Division II perennial-power Dixie State was visiting Dominican in San Rafael. Dixie was sporting a 6-2 record, Dominican was 0-4. The Dixie State Red Storm (St. George, UT) had breezed to a Pacific Western Conference title the year before.
Confidence? They don't lack that at Dixie State. Every year, Dixie State lists the date of the NCAA Division II Soccer Championship contest on its season schedule.
"The week before the match, all I kept hearing was 'Dixie State!' 'Dixie State!' 'Dixie State,' " recalled then-freshman Selesia. "It was psyching me out a little bit. So I was nervous for the first 10 minutes of the contest. Then I settled down and played my game."
Thirteen minutes into the second half, the score was tied, 1-1, and
Dominican had a corner kick. Penguin defender Katie Brown, then a
junior, was ready to boot.
"I have never seen anyone able to kick a soccer ball as far as
Katie," said Selesia, the former Sonora Wildcat star. "She can kick
that ball the entire length of the field with no problem."
"This was a huge game to us," recalled Brown, a San Diego native.
"I had felt really good about the way we were playing them.
"On corner kicks, I try to place it close to the net and hope a teammate is there to finish it off."
"Basically," said Dominican head coach Jonathan Delano, "Katie's
job is to put that ball inside the box, preferably six yards away from
the keeper. Tori Selesia had to stay disciplined and make her run, as
did other players of ours. Up to that moment in the season, Tori had
been causing havoc out there, but she needed to get over the hump - put
a key ball in the back of the net in a big game."
Selesia eyed Brown's kick.
"That ball was coming right at me," recalled Selesia. "My job was
to stay away from the keeper. But, at that point, I can't move. If I
move, the keeper will get the ball. And then - there it was - that ball
dropped right into my lap. It hit my left thigh. I needed to trap it
and get it down."
Selesia stood four yards from net.
"Everything was happening so fast," said Selesia. "I just booted it
towards the top of the net with my right foot. And it went in."
And Dominican went bonkers.
Selesia's goal proved to be the game-winner. Dominican won 2-1.
"It was an exciting moment for Tori," said Delano. "Goals are tough
to come by at this level and she came through at a huge time. It was
vindication that we were right all along in starting her immediately.
But it was also an exciting moment for our whole team. Winning a game
against a team of Dixie's caliber helped our team confidence a lot."
"We were ecstatic and we went crazy," recalled Brown. "We were,
literally, playing our hearts out. That was such a great game to win.
"Tori is one of the fastest girls on our team and she can beat
anyone down that line. She's got the speed and skill to take anyone on
- and she was doing that for us all game against Dixie."
"It was pretty nuts," said Selesia. "It was a goal I know that I
will never, never forget. It hit me in that one moment - I do belong in
college soccer. I hadn't felt that confidence before."
Selesia's other 2010 goal was also off a corner-kick assist from
Brown. That score came in a 2-1 road loss (Oct. 7) to the Urban Knights
After its win over Dixie, Dominican finished the 2010 season 6-6-1
(7-10-1 overall). The Penguins record in Pacific Western Conference
play was 6-7-1. Selesia ended the season second on Dominican in
shots-on-goal (20), quite an achievement for a frosh.
"That's an impressive statistic by Tori and it's important to her
team," said Buzz Garvin, who coached Sonora to three consecutive
Sac-Joaquin Section titles (2006-08). "Typically, it's your forwards
who lead your team in shots. But when you get a midfielder like Tori
making that happen, opposing teams aren't prepared for that."
Selesia played on the '07 championship team as a frosh. She scored
the winning goal in the '08 section-title game - a 1-0 win over West
Campus. In 2009, Selesia was named All-Area Most Valuable Player. Her
63 career goals rank her amongst the all-time leaders in Sonora history.
"Tori was a big part of our success at Sonora and it's no surprise
to me that she's already having success at Dominican," said Garvin.
"Her work ethic, speed and ball control make her so effective.
Dominican recruited her pretty hard. I remember he (Delano) said that
he thought she'd be effective right away."
"Just from her fall season with us to her spring (practice) season,
Tori improved tremendously," said Delano. "She was our 'Freshman of the
Year' honoree, and this spring she was using her speed even more
effectively - not always going her fastest, changing speeds. We wanted
her to improve on her footwork and her moves and she did that. We want
Tori isolated. In our conference, she's obviously already in the top
tier in terms of quickness."
"Tori is a team player," said Brown, now a senior and the Penguins'
team captain. "There's no negativity with Tori. She added a lot of
spirit to our team with her personality.
"I'm excited for this season because I know I'll be giving her
diagonals and letting her take it one-on-one and then scoring."
"I'm actually much more of a physical player now than I had been,"
said Selesia. "I'm not as nice on that field anymore. We can take this
conference this year. At Sonora, getting to the playoffs was expected
and that's why we did it. I think we have a team at Dominican that
wants, and expects, to win."
Selesia, on a partial athletic scholarship, has chosen psychology as her major.
"In the recruiting process, I look for a good student-athlete,"
says Delano, now in his sixth season as the Penguins' boss. "Tori's
overall attitude is fantastic. I will never question Tori's character.
I admire her for how strong a desire she has.
"On the soccer field, Tori's potential is limitless. She's starting
to see just how good she can be. This season, from an offensive
standpoint, how our team goes will, in large part, be determined by
Tori. As she goes, we'll go."
"Well," says Selesia, "I know there's a lot expected of me but
that's fine - I like the pressure. I remember after the Dixie win, and
our team was all excited, my coach came up to me and said, 'Tori, your
best soccer is still in front of you.' And at the end of last season he
told me, 'You're doing what you need to be doing.'
"So I'm fired up. I can't wait for this season to start."