Since 2012, the Sonoma State women’s soccer program has produced five All-Americans, three of whom have recently gone on to continue their playing careers as professional footballers.
Twin sisters Cara and Lauren Curtin, who came up through the Sonoma County club soccer system, were set on competing as runners at Santa Rosa Junior College when Emiria Salzmann Dunn recruited the pair to play for the Bear Cubs during her stint as the junior college’s soccer coach before taking over Sonoma State’s head coaching position in 2011.
“They were very quiet, unassuming people, and I had heard how talented they were as runners,” said Salzmann Dunn. “I knew that they had great touch, agility, and body control, but I didn’t realize at that time that it would translate into soccer players — beautiful, dynamic soccer players.”
The pair played alongside future All-American Carolyn Greco in 2013, helping Sonoma State advance into the first round of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
“It was a coach’s dream,” recalled Salzmann Dunn. “You had three of the most phenomenal athletes to ever play here straight down the spine of the field. A target striker, a center midfielder and a center back all down the middle.”
Fresh off a 15-goal, seven-assist, All-American 2012 season, Cara returned to the pitch for her final year of eligibility to lead the Seawolves in scoring (9 goals), while placing second in points (21) to only her sister. Lauren converted eight shots for goals and racked up nine assists en route to a 2013 All-American selection, while Carolyn appeared in 15 games, helping the Seawolves to a top-five ranking in both goals against average (0.823) and shutout percentage (.429) in the CCAA.
After a year-long hiatus during the 2014-15 season, Greco returned to the pitch the following year to complete her Sonoma State career with an All-American performance. The center back helped solidify a defensive line for the Seawolves that ranked sixth-best in the country with an 0.431 goals against average and third-best in shutout percentage at .700. The Seawolves went on to clinch the title of 2015 CCAA regular season champions with a 10-0-2 line, marking the first time since 1998 Sonoma State had secured an undefeated record in conference play.
Reminiscing about Greco’s return puts an incredulous grin on Salzmann Dunn’s face.
“It was like the soccer gods came and deposited the perfect player back on your team,” Salzmann Dunn said. “She was fully emotionally developed, she was fully physically developed and she was playing for higher purposes. It was basically about coaching the finer points of the game. She really had it all.”
Following Cara and Lauren’s tenure at Sonoma State, the Curtins sought out ways to extend their career past Division II competition. At the encouragement of their Seawolf coach, the pair found an opportunity to play professionally in Switzerland, and after a conversation with the president of FF Lugano 1976, the twins headed to Europe in 2016 for a month-long tryout with the club.
“Good thing we packed our bags,” laughed Lauren.
Following their first season with the Swiss club, the Curtins returned home and reconnected with Greco during a Sonoma State Soccer Alumni weekend, persuading their former teammate to try out for Lugano and join the two of them in Switzerland.
Despite being recruited as a defender, Greco ironically found herself slotted alongside Lauren, playing a brand-new position in the Lugano midfield. However, regardless of her new positioning, Carolyn, plus Cara and Lauren, each hit their stride and helped lead the club all the way through to the Women’s Swiss Cup Final this past season.