Vasthy Delgado and her Towson University soccer teammates pride themselves on having a close-knit bond on and off the field. They are hoping that chemistry continues to click for them as they gear up for the upcoming season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Tigers have steadily improved since Delgado arrived as a freshman in 2012. The goal now is to make a run at a conference championship. Delgado, a defender, went from starting two games her first year to being named to the 2015 CAA women's soccer preseason team heading into her senior season.
Last year, Delgado had a crucial assist during the Tigers' 2-0 victory against William & Mary, which earned the program's first appearance in the CAA tournament. Now, Delgado and her teammates are looking to build on that success.
"We want to be in the final four [of the CAA tournament]," Delgado said. "Last year was like a stepping stone. I want us to keep growing and make a statement in the CAA. I want us to continue to move up."
Delgado grew up in Arlington, Va., where everyone in her family played soccer. Her father, Jerson, played soccer during his summers in high school in El Salvador and passed that passion to his children.
"It's just a big sport that we all grew up playing and love," Delgado said.
Delgado was a standout at Washington-Lee High School, which won the 2010 National District Championship. She was named first-team all-district in 2010 and 2011 and received an honorable mention spot on the 2011 all-region team.
From there, she decided Towson was the right fit academically and athletically. She has since thrived at the school.
"When I came, it reminded me of back home," Delgado said of Towson. "Everything is within walking distance. If I want to go to the mall, it's down the street. I like the metropolitan area. For the team, everyone just seemed connected and so honest with each other. That's what I wanted. I could just be myself on the team. That's why I chose Towson for school and soccer."
Towson went 1-15-2 during Delgado's freshman year, and she chalked up those challenges to a learning experience. She used that time to grow as a player and student. She also learned the importance of time management as she juggled her studies and athletics schedule.
"My freshman year, we had a rough season," Delgado said. "I knew that sometimes teams are going to have bad seasons. We started picking it up, and I liked how our team became closer. You really start to see who you are as a player and as a student, too. You really learn how to be a student-athlete."
Delgado came back strong her sophomore year, and she started all 19 games. She also helped anchor a defense that allowed the fewest conference goals since 2003. The Tigers also had the biggest single-season turnaround in program history, from one win to eight.
Towson head coach Greg Paynter said Delgado has played a crucial role in the program's recent turnaround. He has watched Delgado transform from a freshman who struggled to get playing time to one of the team's most respected leaders who serves as a mentor to the freshmen.
"She has really anchored our defense for the past three years," Paynter said. "Her junior year, she was probably our most consistent player. It's not just her performance. It's her leadership and ability to read the game. She does a fantastic job of taking one more thing off our plate of worries."
Last season, Delgado was named third-team All-CAA. She once again started every game and posted her first career assist against William & Mary. Towson finished the season with eight shutouts -- the most since 1997. The Tigers also went 3-0-2 during their final five matches, the program's longest unbeaten streak in its 22-year history, to qualify for the CAA tournament for the first time.
"I've definitely gotten better through the opponents we've played," Delgado said. "... Going up against some really good forwards has made me better. We've had players who have pushed me in practice. That's helped me. When I was a freshman, I was still in the club mentality. I felt real relaxed. Playing Division I soccer has helped me play faster. It's just so competitive. In practice, we push each other. That's helped me grow as a player."
Delgado is majoring in psychology and international studies. One of her goals is to help facilitate or serve as an ambassador for businesses or government that want to work more closely in Latin America countries. She is confident her experiences as a student and athlete will serve her well in the real world.