SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Storm’s season has ended and we’ll have to go another year before Storm takes to the field again.
Storm finished at the top of the table tied in points with Tottenham Hotspurs Eastbay Ladies, recovering after stumbling in the beginning of the season.
The season start did not go as planned for Storm. In the Pacific-North season opener, Storm faced WPSL newcomer Fresno Freeze at Chukchansi Park in Fresno. Storm got on the scoresheet first when Sharifatu Sumaila headed in a corner, but Fresno quickly equalized. The visitors were unable to get on the scoresheet again, and Fresno continued to dominate, winning 5-1.
After that rough start, Storm was able to recover nicely, going on a three game undefeated streak, beating Sacramento rival Primero de Mayo 7-0 in one of those games.
However in the fifth game of the season, Storm fell 2-1 for the first time to the San Francisco Nighthawks, dropping crucial points in one of the toughest Pac-North divisions in recent years.
Storm went on to win six out of their seven remaining games, but it was not enough to qualify for Western playoffs. Although tied on points with Tottenham Hotspurs Eastbay Ladies in first place, Tottenham advanced to the playoffs on goal difference, marking the first time in the past three years that California Storm has not been the division representative.
Despite not making the playoffs, Coach Zanelli says there were a lot of positives to the season. One of those positives was Storm veteran Mo Whitney joining the team as associate coach. Whitney was pivotal in the Storm midseason turnaround. She brought with her 11 years of experience as a Storm player, as well as coaching experience from serving as assistant coach with the Sacramento State and Fresno State women’s soccer teams.
With only eight players returning from the 2014 season, it was necessary to have a good recruitment year. After months of tryouts and exhibition games heavily featuring trialists, Zanelli was able to select his 2015 squad. The only returning players from 2014 were: Megan Maiwald and Maddie Schiffel (goalkeepers); Vicky Ramirez and Karissa Garcia (defenders); Cara Curtin, Lauren Curtin, Geneve Dromensk, and Sissi (midfielders); and Katie Dry (forward).
Among the newcomers were Ghana internationals Jennifer Cudjoe, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Cudjoe, and Sharifatu Sumaila. All members of the senior Ghana women’s national team, the trio featured heavily for Storm, with one of the three starting every game. Sumaila was Storm’s most lethal forward with fast-paced runs up the flanks and opportunistic goals in the box.
Brazilian forward Leidiane Capobianco had a good season as a field player, but her shining moment in the 2015 season came at the match against the San Francisco Nighthawks at Kezar Stadium. With all of Storm’s goalkeepers unavailable to make the trip to San Francisco, Capobianco stepped up and volunteered to fill the role. A striker, Capobianco had never played any defensive position before and would be standing under the goal for the first time in her career. Not only did she allow just one goal in her standout performance, she also blocked a penalty kick, keeping Storm alive in the race to the playoffs with a 3-1 victory .
This year’s squad also featured two high school seniors, Maggie Bell and Aleah Kelley. Both standout players with their high schools and local youth teams, they contributed heavily to Storm’s solid backline and midfield. Bell, despite her lack of experience at the Pro-Am level, started every game she was rostered in. Bell, a product of the Placer United youth programs, has committed to Cal, while Kelley, a San Juan Soccer Club alumna, will begin playing for UC Irvine this fall.
Kim Yokers. Yokers was a college standout at Cal, and in 2013 she signed with the Western New York Flash for the inaugural NWSL season. Unfortunately, an ACL injury sidelined her, and ultimately ended her time at the club. This season she made an appearance for Storm, marking a return to soccer for her. Yokers previously played for Storm during 2004-2008.
A lot of the new Storm players are current college athletes who supplement their collegiate careers with WPSL play during the summer. This year’s college athletes are: Sabrina Williamson and Kirsten Coleman (CSU Stanislaus); Ana Maria Sola, Sienna Drizin, Rachel Smith, and Andi Damien (UC Davis); Jessica Raybe (Arizona State); and Maddie Bauer, Haley Rosen, and Jaye Boissiere (Stanford).
“With the amount of changeover, it was necessary to have a good recruitment year to find those players that could continue the Storm tradition. I am pleased with the first place tie, as this is the third year in a row that we have finished at the top of the standings.
“It has been a great year because the hard work and desire made coaching very gratifying this year,”
Stay tuned for off-season news on everything Storm!