NCAA College Cup TV schedule

Because I’m pretty sure this can’t be said enough times, have it again before the first game kicks off.

Friday, December 3

  • Notre Dame vs Ohio State at 4 p.m. ET
    Live on ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN3.com
  • Stanford vs Boston College at 6:30 p.m. ET
    (or 45 minutes after ND-OSU if the game requires overtimes)
    Live on ESPNU; tape-delayed on ESPN2 on 12/5 at 9 a.m. ET

Sunday, December 5

  • Stanford vs Boston College (tape delay)
    9 a.m. ET on ESPN2
  • Championship Final at 12 p.m. ET
    Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com

Watch them. The NCAA soccer season is the most wonderful time of the year, and this weekend, 2010 comes to a close with some wicked good teams in the final games.

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Irish press conferences: always better than UNC’s

This year’s Notre Dame press conference with Randy Waldrum, Lauren Fowlkes, and Schuveiller leading up to the College Cup reminds me of the press conferences in 2008. In fact, I am going to swipe the links to throw at you because they make me so happy:

2010 – College Cup Games Notes | Notre Dame College Cup Central
Press Conference: Video | Photo Gallery | Quotes
Twitter: ND Athletics | ND Women’s Soccer | ND Women’s Soccer News | Head coach Randy Waldrum

It’s so great to hear Waldrum talk (about anything, but especially the sport), and for Schuveiller and Fowlkes to get some of the screentime that was heaped on the 2008 seniors. No offense, because I loved that crew, but we have seen much less of the women’s soccer team since then.

And just to enjoy some throwbacks, because I do miss ye olde alumni:

2008Press Conference with Randy Waldrum, Kerri Hanks, and Brittany Bock | Press Conference with Randy Waldrum, Brittany Bock, and Carrie Dew Well, just trust me, those were great interviews. Brittany Bock and Carrie Dew were particularly fun to watch together, and Kerri Hanks tried to be diplomatic with questions of what a handful she could be in practice.
Taping ESPN Promos | 2008 Season Highlights

Notre Dame women’s soccer is so undersold. By the way, since Waldrum did mention it and I haven’t yet: Texas Christian University will be joining the Big East in 2012. That is seriously far from the usual in the Big East – distance-wise. If only Kerri Hanks, “A Legend of Big East Soccer,” had commented on this directly.

Chile, look the other way

Last night, the conversation got rolling on Twitter about why I dislike Alex Morgan’s inclusion on the USWNT roster right now. As I’ve said, I understand that when a player gets that call, she goes, because a spot on the World Cup roster is what every women’s soccer player aims for, right? And as we have seen with Leslie Osborne, chances at these spots can be taken away so easily, so a player doesn’t pass up an opportunity when it presents itself. I’m sure Morgan has weighed the pros and cons and clearly she made her decision, but for various reasons, this call-up doesn’t sit right with me.

Disclaimer: I don’t cheer for Cal, and I don’t root against them. I don’t dislike Alex Morgan, but my criticisms of the way she plays are nothing new.

Let’s start with the “big” picture, the senior national team, which doesn’t seem to have cultivated or developed new forwards in the past three years. With the World Cup less than a year away and CONCACAF qualifiers happening now, I should probably be grateful that the new blood comes “late” rather than “never.” I shouldn’t question that Alex Morgan is the new blood, in particular, because she scored the game-tying goal against China’s U-23s… which should tell you something about this World Cup run.

This USWNT isn’t going to win the World Cup. Even if the tournament wasn’t being held in Germany (a hostile environment, to be sure) the US wouldn’t have good chances. Set aside, for a moment, that the athletes have to be in a winning mentality and have to think that they can do it–yes, miracles happen. Realistically, what are the US’s chances of getting that miracle? Realistically, what are the chances that Alex Morgan is going to perform that miracle or contribute to it in any way?

So Morgan has belatedly committed to a national team that hasn’t decided it needs her. The US will need her down the road if she reaches her potential, yes, and considering how long Amy Rodriguez has been around, Morgan could stick on the roster forever regardless of her performance. But if you pay any attention to CONCACAF, you know Morgan isn’t needed right now. This trip, for her, is about finding her small place on the team and filling a spot on the roster. Definitely, chemistry is needed for a strong team. Definitely, the coaches should have been working on that sooner. This call-up reeks of half-hearted experimentation. The 2010 senior WNT depressingly resembles the U-20 WNT, in that there are problems no one is truly fixing. This is a team that could get out of CONCACAF, but they will only progress through the knock-out stages of a World Cup if they feel like showing up on game days. They might not.

Flash back to when Christina DiMartino was called up to the USWNT. I never expected that to happen, even though I love the way she plays. That is a player that can provide a real spark and doesn’t care what size the opponent is. Nothing stops her. She is small (short and slight), though, and I would think that could have been a concern. Maybe chemistry was a factor, too. Maybe she wasn’t filling any of the currently open roles. But she plays a speedy, graceful, dangerous game and she doesn’t crumple when an opponent sneezes on her. Maybe Morgan has the chemistry. Maybe she is filling Tasha Kai’s role. She is speedy and graceful, and she has scored a couple goals, but per DiCicco’s report in 2008, we know that she has more issues than injury and equilibrium. Even if she has solved the nutrition problems, she is still the wilting violet on the field. These aren’t U-20s or college kids that she would be up against in Germany.

While we have DiCicco’s report and 2008 on the table, let’s not forget that Alex Morgan did make a commitment when it came to the U-20s. She made the commitment well in advance of the college season (her sophomore year, by the way). This year, in her senior season, she is a team captain. She has played in 11 of 17 games, totaling 915 minutes. 11 Bears have scored this season, and of 37 goals, 14 are Alex Morgan’s. In the Pac-10, Cal holds a 2-3-1 record. This summer, I asked, “Will Alex Morgan try to make something of her senior season at Cal?” The games she missed were at the core of Cal’s schedule: Portland, UCLA, both Arizonas, Stanford. Cal meets Oregon today Friday, but the Bears haven’t had any luck so far against the teams below them in the Pac-10. They close against Oregon State, currently unbeaten in conference play.

Although the statistics are hugely in Morgan’s favor, she doesn’t carry her college team alone. Often overlooked, Megan Jesolva is a key part of this team, even when she isn’t at 100%. DiCicco nearly took her to Chile and spoke highly of her in his report despite only having her in one or two camps. She has since played for the U-23s (although thanks to ussoccer.com, you wouldn’t know that). Morgan and Jesolva combined would have made Cal a solid team this year, despite the loss of players such as Lisa Kevorkian (all the rage at Boston University now), last year’s captains, and a starting keeper. Jesolva recently voiced her intent to continue her soccer career past NCAA, which is a pleasant surprise–but is it likely? She keeps narrowly missing opportunities. Her fellow players voted not to take her to Chile; by the time the U-23s scooped her up, the Nordic Cup was no more; she is graduating to the pro leagues in a year where WPS is massively scaling things down (possibly for its final run) and the women’s soccer world will focus on the senior World Cup. Jesolva’s chances with Cal have steadily decreased the longer Morgan has been away as part of the USWNT’s attempt to integrate some youth.

Overall, I really doubt Jesolva (or anyone else) begrudges Morgan this one shot at the USWNT. But I think it’s a gamble, and it’s selling Morgan, Jesolva, and Cal short. The Bears aren’t a Final Four-bound team, but they are much better than their record. They just weren’t prepared for Morgan’s Once In A Lifetime shot at the ailing USWNT. All the best to her, of course, but I have to wonder at the cost. In the sea of voices showering her with nothing but praise, I’m sure at least one blog entry of doubt is merited.

Edit to link: There is not enough anger in my post. Now a word from someone much more invested.

I’m sorry, I don’t wear pink. Ever.

ESPN Latin America

You know what else is four letters? "FAIL."

The other day, a reader emailed to suggest that we offer up our perspective on espnW. Since the USWNT played last night, I am full of energy to rant about anything, really–so, dear reader, I responded that I would keep the topic under consideration, but clearly I needed to start this post. [Disclaimer: this is entirely my opinion and experience, which are not necessarily shared by my co-Collector, Joan.]

To be honest, when I first saw “espnW” popping up in Twitter talk, I thought it was a joke. There wasn’t a website (there might be now, but it takes more hunting than it merits) and this clearly wasn’t a TV channel… so really, who did these people think they were fooling? What a gimmick.

Then they had their retreat. Oops. So they did (do) exist. They were (are) for real. And that’s tragic. As I have said elsewhere, espnW is setting up a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation for women’s sports fans, athletes, and supporters. As a former education major, espnW looks like No Child Left Behind to me–and if you are a teacher or a teacher-in-training, you immediately understand the rhetoric at work here. From the outside, the concept is lovely: a women’s sports presence on ESPN! The network is cleaning up its act and finally giving women’s sports attention! But on the inside, it’s merely shifting the blame. If you don’t support espnW, you don’t support women’s sports. If you don’t support women’s sports when they are handed to you (separate from the male “mainstream”) then why should ESPN cover it along with “everything” else?

My inner academic has a hat-tip for ESPN for the game the network is playing, but the inner academic is also grinding her teeth and hoping for blood that will never be shed. I would rather have ESPN ignore women’s sports entirely than build us this ghetto. Because, by the way, have you watched ESPN’s previous/current coverage of women’s sports? Have you listened to the commentary? Have you suffered through their women’s soccer coverage? Cross-Conference had more balanced and in-depth coverage of the Portland-Santa Clara game than ESPN offered, and that was just from shooting off emails, chatting up a handful of players, and glancing at archives in our spare time–before the game.

For the past two years, even before the espnW nonsense, my opinion has been a great big Good Riddance to ESPN.  I have the luxury of being outside of the economics of the mainstream-media-versus-women’s-sports mess, but give me my cynical moment. I would rather have internally produced media (look specifically at WPS) than processed, artificial, one-note ESPN games, features, and commentary. Our league is going to be on life support regardless of ESPN’s mainstream attention–and don’t get me wrong, this is not to let ESPN off the hook. It’s to say that ESPN coverage of women’s soccer (and women’s sports) is so half-assed that it would hardly make a difference.

[It’s] really critical for these guys to understand that they’re not the target audience, either. And on the surface, although this may seem like an easy target for a quick joke, if they ever want their sisters, daughters or granddaughters to have the opportunity to experience financial success as professional athletes, they’ll need to support (or at least not mock) a major sports media company when they build opportunities for female athletes to get attention.

Emphasis mine, and I don’t buy it. If ESPN were to genuinely build opportunities for female athletes, the female athletes would be on ESPN, getting coverage on par with male athletes. So that when you’re channel surfing or walk through a room where the TV is always set to ESPN (hello, student union at my undergrad alma mater) you have a chance of catching a glimpse of any female athlete the same way you currently have a chance of any male athlete.

So espnW? Still half-assed, ghettoizing, passing of the buck.

[Essentially, you can look at this the same way Lindsey Mean looks at FIFA.com in “Making Masculinity and Framing Femininity.” Next up in Ruth’s Anger Series, “Here Is What I Really Think of Alex Morgan’s Call-Up,” and “Why Do You Automatically Assume I’m Going to Offend Someone?”

Edit: Okay, so I’m not as angry as my friends.]

Notre Dame at Villanova, mostly just musing

As teamongolia said, last Friday meant a trip to Villanova to see Notre Dame play. Because I can’t ever seem to find my way around Nova, we arrived a few minutes after kickoff, but that was okay. For the friends I was with, this was their first time seeing either of these teams live. For me, it was kind of like a “welcome home,” since Nova is one of my nearest DI schools and my last game there was in 2007.

I have missed falls in Pennsylvania. Friday was a perfect example of that:

The weather was perfect, the company was wonderful, and the preferred team came away with the win. Since the last Notre Dame game I saw in person was in 2006, this crop of Irish was a new experience for me. (And since the sisters Press have already been given blog time elsewhere, I can skip over that.) The crowd, by the way, felt pretty similar to 2006–a decent Irish contingent and some smart young girls sitting behind us providing commentary. I love it when the kids know who the college players are (especially when they know more than just the teams’ stars) and how the game is played. They weren’t afraid to pick apart either team.

It’s true, Notre Dame has not been having the season that I hoped they would, but the Irish haven’t been a disappointment, either. They clinched the National Division the weekend before at Providence, and after this weekend’s win and draw, they are 9-0-2 in conference play. Since both of those draws (with UConn and Georgetown) occurred on the road and after the vanishing of Taylor Knaack, I would say that even the Connecticut draw is, although concerning, understandable. The freshmen are making significant contributions to this team, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are first years.

The freshmen were fun to watch, though. The whole team was, but I expected to be more focused on the upperclassmen. Surprisingly, this was not the case. Mandy Laddish and Adriana Leon were starters, Elizabeth Tucker and Kecia Morway came off the bench, and Rebecca Twining clocked a few minutes as well. Laddish was taken down and had to come off during the first half, but she eventually returned. Leon scored, and that was the game winner. As much as I thought I was there to finally see these seniors in the blue and gold, I was really getting a chance to meet the future of the team. It definitely changed my perception of this year’s team, too.

Last season and this season have had their rough patches and shaky spots, but it’s not like this team has slipped the way Penn State has, or flashed and faded like Boston College. When Tucker got taken down in the box, I watched Waldrum instead of the penalty kick. He wasn’t watching either, but it was okay. The Irish didn’t double their lead but they held onto it, and they continued to attack.

Notre Dame is currently a point ahead of West Virginia and a couple behind Marquette (11-0-0 in conference play). The next game is a home game in the Big East tournament on Sunday, October 31, at 1 p.m. Eastern (with webcast!). After that, I expect to see them in the semis and final at Rutgers–maybe, possibly, in person with the crowd of family and fans that follow them.

Santa Clara-San Diego highlights

Shortly after our interview, Julie passed along the link to a really great highlight video of the SCU-USD game, which SCU won 1-0. It was shot and cut together by the husband of former Bronco Bree Horvath (2001-2004). Even if you aren’t into either team, it’s a great video for women’s soccer.

Boston College beats UNC (aka Thursday was a good night to be a DiMartino)

September 1, 2007, South Carolina opened the season against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. 16 minutes into the match, the Gamecocks score. That single goal was enough to end No. 1 UNC’s 27 game winning steak and hand the Tar Heels an historical first-ever loss in the home opener. And sure, I was happy for South Carolina, but I was more pumped that they at beaten UNC at UNC. The Tar Heels had plenty of time to come back and put the usual hurting on their opponents, but they didn’t.

In women’s college soccer, the giant slayers are few and far between. So the slaying is sweeter when it’s a team that I’ve been through the ups and downs with. In 2007, UNC lost three games in the regular season (South Carolina, William & Mary, and Miami), but none of those mattered as much as Notre Dame’s arrival in Chapel Hill in the third round of the postseason. 2007 was “rough” on UNC and none too gentle on Notre Dame. I was at Penn State-West Virginia when news came that the Irish had knocked the Tar Heels out of the tournament. While my glee was tempered by the Penn State loss, this is still one of the highlights of 2007 for me–despite Notre Dame’s painful semifinal loss to Florida State.

Yesterday, while most of my twitter feed was fixated on the WPS semifinal between Philadelphia and Boston, I was watching the scoreline and minutes for the Boston College-North Carolina game. UNC had a 2-2 draw earlier this season with Stanford, one of the strongest and most talented teams in the NCAA this year. That was the Tar Heels’ 2010 blemish until last night’s 3-2 loss at home to Boston College.

BC opened this season with a 1-1 draw at home against Stanford. Since then, they have won every game. Granted, until last week, the Eagles’ most significant opponent was probably Boston University (no slouch this year with Kevorkian on the roster). But BC didn’t struggle against Rutgers and did come from behind twice before taking down the No. 1.

The recaps and articles are worth reading. This game was a significant victory for a team that is in its second season as serious contenders, and this win should cement that.

Boston College won with a complete effort. It won because DiMartino, Mewis and Mastroianni may be among the 15 or 20 best players in the nation. It won because its back line, particularly the unsung combination of Beyar and Alyssa Pember on the left side, has now hung for 180 minutes with the best Stanford and North Carolina had to offer. It won with role players such as Natalie Crutchfield, the speed merchant off the bench who changed the tempo when she came on as a first-half substitute.

It won because, at least on this night, it was a better than No. 1.