Hoover earned a Big West honorable mention. Mustang Daily photo
Hoover earned a Big West honorable mention. Mustang Daily photo

Cal Poly senior keeper and captain Coral Hoover has more than doubled her shutout total from last year (9) and goals allowed per game average (.63), while pushing her conference-leading Mustangs to fight for a conference championship and No. 1 seed against rivals UC Santa Barbara on Sunday.

Looking at Hoover’s stats, she is certainly leading by example.

“She’s really stepped up into the role this year,” junior keeper Brooke Gauvin said. “She’s been on fire since the first game against Stanford. That was a big turning point.”

Despite losing to the No. 1 ranked Stanford 2-1, Hoover mentions the game as a confidence booster and a “yes we can” for the team. “It was nice to know we could stay close to one of the best teams in the nation, if not the best,” she said. “To hold them 2-1 felt pretty good, even though we lost.”

Head coach Alex Crozier said that Hoover’s junior year was key to her success this season. Despite a more statistically up-and-down year than this season, Hoover still earned a Big West honorable mention.

“Last season she was thrown into the fire,” Crozier said. “She made some mistakes in judgment, maybe let some goals in that maybe should or shouldn’t have gone in. She’s not doing that this year.”

Last week, Hoover was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season. In the Mustangs’ (12-5, 6-1 BWC) 1-0 overtime win over Pacific University on Saturday, she had six saves, the fifth game in a row she has met that number or greater. With one game to go in their conference schedule, the Mustangs head into the upcoming conference tournament with momentum.

Crozier has watched Hoover’s development from her senior year of high school. He was recruiting other girls from Hoover’s team and noticed her athleticism on the field, but after talking to her club coach, he thought she was going to attend Humboldt State. She decided against Humboldt though, because she thought if she didn’t continue with her soccer she never would, she said. Cal Poly had a program that she was interested in.

The next fall, Hoover showed up in white cleats at the open tryouts for the Cal Poly team.

“I’m a conservative coach, I like black cleats,” Crozier said. “She showed up with white cleats and probably kept them a few days longer than she should have.” Despite Crozier’s initial dislike of her cleats, Hoover still made the team.

Hoover was a redshirt her freshman year and didn’t see any playing time in her sophomore year. It took her both years before she started traveling with the team.

“Knowing that you’re at the bottom of the totem pole means your fighting every day for your spot,” Hoover said. “Once you start traveling you really feel part of the team.”

Hoover first started playing soccer when she was six years old.

“I got really jealous of the boys who told me about their games on the weekend and got to play on real teams, so I signed up,” she said.

It was six or seven years before she became a keeper. Hoover said she was getting tired at practice and the coach made the decision to try her out in front of the goal. Her team was bad, so it gave her a lot of action at the position. That’s what solidified her love for the spot. Parents started complimenting her after the game and she was hooked.

Hoover doesn’t necessarily like the pressure that comes along with her position and said that she gets nervous before every game.

“I’ve never really enjoyed the pressure. But with pressure comes a little bit of glory,” she said.

Pressure also comes along with Hoover’s responsibility as captain. She tries to speak less and do more rather than “be in people’s faces.”

“I just try and be a good image of what a student athlete should be instead of telling people what to do,” she said. “I want to teach the freshmen just by being.”

Judging by her stats and the team’s record, she’s doing just that.

Cal Poly will compete for a No. 1 spot against Central Coast rival UCSB at 1 p.m. Sunday in Santa Barbara.

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