Billy Gutierrez is a sparkplug off the bench. Tiffany Hollis is a presence in the nets. Both are crucial players for Cal State Dominguez Hills' soccer programs, which enter every season with national-championship aspirations.
And they're a team.
Gutierrez, a 26-year-old senior defender, and Hollis, 20, a junior goalkeeper, will celebrate 18 months of marriage at season's end -- and they hope, too, for returns to the NCAA Division II tournaments after both teams missed the postseason last year.
The men are off to a 6-2-1 start, with Gutierrez (Huntington Park/Huntington Park HS) the Toros' No. 2 scorer, with a pair goals and three assists. The women (5-4-0) have struggled, ending a four-game losing streak with a 1-0 win Friday at San Francisco State. Hollis (Los Angeles/Lakewood HS) has been a strong suit and was the California Collegiate Athletic Association's player of the week earlier this month.
Soccer provided a foundation for their relationship, and with home life, classes (both major in kinesiology) and the tight ties between the teams (they travel together for CCAA matches), they rarely spend time apart.
“Soccer is a big deal for both of us, because we are always talking about soccer, and that's what brought us together in the beginning ... ” Hollis told the school's athletics website. “We know how to find a balance between everything, but it's not easy. We decided to get into this boat together, and now we just have to know how to work through the adversities, remembering what the most important thing is, which is our relationship.”
Gutierrez and Hollis met in a soccer class three years ago at Cerritos College, where both played for the Falcons' state-championship sides. They wed in May 2010, arrived in Carson a year ago and played reserve roles for Dominguez Hills, which struggled after winning the men's national title in 2008 and reaching the women's championship game in 2009.
Both have taken on far greater roles in their second seasons in Carson, and both sides have flirted with the top 25 -- the women have been ranked as high as 14th, the men 23rd -- and hope work their way into the CCAA tournament, which always produces NCAA contenders.
And they're each other's biggest fan.
“I enjoy watching her do something she loves and her knowing that I am there watching and supporting her,” Gutierrez told gotoros.com. “And the thing I love the most is that my wife is a great soccer player.”
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Luis Gonzalez (Long Beach/Millikan HS), So Cal's premier player beneath Division I, scored four goals last week -- the lone strike in a victory over Sonoma State and a hat trick in a 5-1 rout of Humboldt State -- to push his season total to eight in seven games. He scored 12 with nine assists as a junior after netting 51 in two All-America campaigns at Cerritos College and tallied 52 in his prep career.
Local conference Players of the Week:
Big West Conference (NCAA Division I)
Men: Offensive -- UC Santa Barbara's Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS); Defensive -- UC Santa Barbara's Andrew Grandt
Women: Defensive -- UC Irvine's CoCo Goodson
California Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA Division II)
Men: Cal Poly Pomona's Luis Gonzalez (Long Beach/Millikan HS and Cerritos College)
Golden State Athletic Conference (NAIA)
Men: Defensive -- Westmont's Andrew Singer (Ventura/Westlake HS and Oxnard College)
Women: Offensive -- Hope International's Kristen Enriquez (Alta Loma/St. Lucy's Priory HS); Defensive -- Concordia's Bekah Garvin
ETC.: UCLA's men, down to 25th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings after last weekend's loss to SMU, opens Pacific 12 Conference play with home games Friday vs. Cal and Sunday vs, Stanford. ... Big West Conference began men's play Wednesday, and the women kick off the league campaign Friday. Defending champion UC Irvine opens at UC Davis. ... The Golden State Athletic Conference (NAIA) starts conference play Saturday. The best matchup: Biola's 18th-ranked men visit No. 14 Concordia, in Irvine. ...
Chandler Hoffman has 11 goals in eight games for UCLA's men. Gyasi Zardes (Hawthorne/Leuzinger HS) has 11 in eight for Cal State Bakersfield's men. ... Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) has 10 in 11 games for Long Beach State, and Taylor Will has 12 in nine games for D3 Cal Lutheran. ... Whittier's women are going through a rough season. The D3 program is 0-8-0, has been outscored, 40-5, and has surrendered 29 goals in its last four games, including eight Sept. 21 at Redlands and a dozen Wednesday at Cal Lutheran.
RANKINGS: Azusa Pacific has been atop the NAIA women's poll since knocking off two-time defending champions Lee (Tenn.), the preseason No. 1, in the season-opening Concordia (Ore.) Tournament up in Portland. The Cougars (4-0-1) have shut out their past three foes but haven't played, aside from an alumni game, in more than three weeks. They open Golden State Athletic Conference play Saturday against No. 18 Point Loma Nazarene.
Here's a list of local teams in the NSCAA rankings:
7. UC Irvine
10. UC Santa Barbara
Receiving votes: Cal State Fullerton
Nos. 1-3: Connecticut, Creighton and Maryland
19. UC Irvine
Receiving votes: Long Beach State
Nos. 1-2: Stanford and Oklahoma State
15. Cal State L.A.
Nos. 1-3: Rollins (Fla.), Fort Lewis (Colo.) and Franklin Pierce (N.H.)
Nos. 1-3: Bridgeport (Conn.), UC San Diego and Abilene (Texas) Christian
Nos. 1-3: St. Lawrence (N.Y.), Messiah (Pa.) and Christopher Newport (Va.)
17. Cal Lutheran
Nos. 1-3: Messiah (Pa.), William Smith (N.Y.) and Wheaton (Ill.)
6. Azusa Pacific
17. The Master's
Receiving votes: La Sierra and Vanguard
Nos. 1-3: Hastings (Neb.), Mobile (Ala.) and Rio Grande (Ohio)
1. Azusa Pacific
15. The Master's
Receiving votes: Vanguard
Nos. 2-3: Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and Lee (Tenn.)