Soccer continues to boom nationwide at all levels and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Bay Area.
Long a haven for men’s amateur and semi-professional teams, the Audax Soccer Club knows there’s a huge market for women’s soccer teams of the same ilk. That’s why it assembled a premier amateur team based out of Gilroy and Morgan Hill, with the ability to draw talent from out of the area as well.
“We’re pretty excited,” coach Allison Bass said. “We have a group of talented ladies, this is our inaugural season and we’re building from the ground up. I think we’ve created a buzz within town with some exciting, high level soccer people can come out and watch.”
Audax plays its home games at the Morgan Hill Sports Complex and competes in the NorCal Conference of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) along with Bay City FC, Sacramento United, Monterey County SC Jaguars and Club Deportivo of Oakland.
It’s a pretty big deal as it is believed to be the first UPSL women’s division starting up this year in California. The UPSL has run a successful men’s premier conference in Northern California and across the nation and Bass felt the time was ripe to have a women’s conference as well.
“We’re very pleased the UPSL opened up a women’s league in this conference because we’ve been overwhelmed with interest,” said Bass, who joins Gilroy High girls coach Efren Pineda in running the team. “There is a very easy path for male athletes where they can keep going and be able to play in numerous leagues at a higher level, but things drop off for female athletes when they finish college. The idea and passion behind this is providing a platform for female athletes as they move beyond the youth level and college level and into the amatuer semi-professional level.”
Audax, which means daring, has three home matches remaining, on June 22, July 7 and July 16. Game times are usually 7pm. The team has been competitive through its first couple of matches which is encouraging for a first-year program.
“I am pleasantly pleased and surprised with how much talent is starting to accumulate,” Bass said. “We’re pushing these girls to the next level and that is going to require more training.”
Teams in the UPSL have a diverse roster featuring players from all different backgrounds. Audax is no exception, with a 19-year age gap separating its youngest player (18) to its oldest (37). The majority of the players are from the South Valley area and San Jose and are currently playing at the community college or four-year level, or for a club team.
Some of the team’s top players include left wing Amber Rodriguez and midfielders Lauren Sanchez and Paola Lua-juarez. Rodriguez, a 26-year-old who had a standout career at Fresno Pacific, has previous experience playing for the Fresno Freeze of the Women’s Premier Soccer League and is a school psychologist in the Campbell Union High School District.
Lua-juarez currently resides in Madera and drives to Morgan Hill a couple of times a week for practices. Stephanie Trujillo (Gilroy), Tatianna Cardoza (Gilroy), Hailey Freeman (Sobrato) and Kelly Nebesnick (Gilroy) are some of the notable names who prepped locally in recent years.
Audax was established in 2018 and fields two comp teams and a recreational program. The decision to start a women’s amateur team was made in part because of the void in the area. In giving women soccer athletes a chance to play at a higher level, Bass said the program wants to encourage them to use the sport as a vehicle for a potential career in the industry.
The best case scenario involves the team eventually landing multiple sponsors because of the costs involved in running a high level soccer team, and a sustained run of success that would eventually lead to some of the players getting an opportunity to play for a second- or third division pro or semi-pro team, Pineda said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]