Castro & Villaldea Earn All-Pac-12 First Team Honors
SAN FRANCISCO – Three members of the Aztec men's soccer team earned All-Pac-12 honors, the conference office announced Tuesday afternoon. Goalkeeper Jacob Castro and midfielder Iñigo Villaldea were named to the First Team while midfielder Blake Bowen was an honorable mention selection.
This is the first time in program history that SDSU has had two All-Pac-12 First Team selections and Castro is the first Aztec goalkeeper to be named to the first team since 2006 (Tally Hall).
"Individual accolades come from team success and all three of these players always put the team first and are well-deserving of these honors," Head coach Ryan Hopkins said. "To be recognized by some of the best coaches in college soccer in the nation's best conference speaks to the growth of our program and points to bright days ahead."
Castro (Spanaway, Wash.), who was in his first year at SDSU after transferring from Washington, posted shutouts in seven of the Aztecs' first eight matches. He led the Pac-12 in total saves (66) and saves per match (3.9) and was second in shutouts (7) and save percentage (.805, 12th in the nation). His seven shutouts were the second most by an Aztec since 2005.
"To come in and have such an immediate impact on our team was so impressive from Jacob," Hopkins praised. "He is a phenomenal goalkeeper and an even better person. He kept us in games time and time again with massive saves and we look forward to him leading the way next year wearing the captain's armband."
Villaldea (Gijón, Spain), an honorable mention selection last season, was a stabilizer to the Aztecs' defensive midfield and tied for the team-lead with four assists. Two of his assists came on free kicks that set up game-winning goals in the closing seconds.
"Iñigo's development during his time here with us has been massive," Hopkins explained. "His work rate, mentality and positioning have grown by leaps and bounds. It goes to show that if you are self-aware about things you need to improve upon and are committed to developing yourself every day, good things will come."
Bowen (San Clemente, Calif.) earned honorable mention recognition for the second consecutive season. Bowen led SDSU in shots on goal (12) and shot on goal percentage (.706) and was third in minutes played (1,494). He had a flair for the dramatic with all three of his goals being game-winners, two of which came in the final five seconds.
"We asked Blake to make a slight position shift for us this year and he not only accepted it, but he thrived," Hopkins said. "You always know you are going to get a hard working committed effort from him and I'm thrilled that the league coaches recognized his blue-collar work ethic and what it means for our group."
The Aztecs while consistently starting six or seven underclassmen improved their RPI over 80 spots this season and were ranked or receiving votes for nearly the entire season, reaching as high as No. 13. Their 7-3-0 record at home gave them their best home winning percentage since 2011 and they went undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since 2005.
The 2022 Aztecs lose just two graduating seniors and are bringing in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.