Musing on Borkowski, fan contributions, and narratives

Although there are points on which we don’t agree, I do think that Shek Borkowski writes a good, thought-provoking blog. I went to his site to find a link to his 9/16 entry, found that he had written more in the meantime, and got caught up in reading the more recent entries. So here is a small plug for his site, and he is on Twitter @shekborkowski.

Last week, Borkowski posted this entry on WPS and the German Bundesliga. Is less of a “Germany is better, nya!” and more of an explanation as to what advantages players have in the German setup, despite the potential in the US. Rather than putting the reader on the defensive by saying “Germany is superior and the US will fail,” Borkowski lays out his points and foregrounds his concern: “I have a vested interest in seeing women’s professional football succeed in the US but I am worried.” After the comparison, he continues, “Today and tomorrow, WPS represents the only real, long term chance American women’s football has in staying competitive internationally.”

Then:

In America, we the fans of women’s football, participants, administrators, referees and coaches are the only asset WPS owners have. […]

Nothing else. Without us, the fans, unlike in European countries where women’s football is subsidized, they are doomed. […]

All of us involved in women’s football always can find reasons not to attend games, but 2011 is the year of no excuses.

We must do all we can to support WPS, we can’t count on baseball or basketball fans to support the league, we must do it.

This morning, my co-writer reminded me of the lesson that I grew up with, as a Catholic, that there are basically two ways to contribute to an organization or cause. One way is monetarily. You put your money where your mouth is. Buy the ticket, go to the game. I am the sort of fan that would much rather buy a ticket to a WPS game than a USWNT game. The league adds another layer to development, where players that aren’t crowned in NCAA are getting the opportunity to show on home soil that not every American player peaks in that limited four-year time-span. The league is where the US pool can diversify and build both talent and consistency, which is admittedly lacking at the W-League/WPSL level. There needs to be recognition that just because the USWNT no longer formally has months of residence and frequent friendlies doesn’t mean that the USWNT player pool hasn’t been in a residency, playing competitive international-level games April through September. Supporting WPS goes a long way towards supporting our national team, so you can have Natasha Kais, Hope Solos, and Abby Wambachs in the future, after those names have retired.

The other way of supporting is through service. Time and energy. Volunteering for those jobs and positions that the teams and league can’t afford to spend money on. Becoming active in keeping this league. Speaking as a monetarily-challenged (read: poor) grad student with a 1.5- to 2-hour drive to my nearest WPS teams, my opportunities to be involved with traditional volunteer positions seem limited. My co-writer, who is about 600 miles from her nearest WPS team, has even more limited options–but that doesn’t stop her, or me, from doing what we can. We have the knowledge and means to talk about the league, teams, and players in various types of media. So we do. We write and podcast, and we’re gradually stretching to see what more we can do and add.

Additionally, I do go to games when I can. I am fortunate to have returned to a part of the East Coast where I have relatively easy access to US women’s soccer at all levels. I did not go to the WPS playoff game between Philadelphia and Washington, but that was because I was already locked into plans to go to the Boston College-Rutgers game, where a number of future professionals and internationals were playing. I feel a little guilty about missing that WPS game, because I know from living in St. Louis that any WPS game could be the last. But then, instead of a WPS game, I was at an NCAA women’s soccer game, not at home on the couch playing video games.

Hope Solo is half-right about statistics. There are intangibles that matter. If you can’t affect the numbers, there are other things you can be doing. One of the intangibles that keeps sport alive and relevant is story. If you know the history, if you know what inspires you to care about the sport, you can pass that on to share or strengthen the same interest within others. (For instance, I don’t care if one keeper has a better statistical average against a team. I care that the other keeper earned the starting position over time and has dedicated her performance in this tournament to a recently deceased relative.) You know how Our Game Magazine is trying to drum up subscribers? They have some of the stories that the mainstream media isn’t hooked into. When you talk someone into going to a game or following a team or player, you have those stories, too.

To come back to Borkowski, he’s right. It’s packaging as much as product. Sometimes it’s packaging more than product. The stories are part of the packaging. Mechelle Voepel, a women’s basketball journalist, grasps and executes that well–she draws me in when I’d just as soon ignore basketball altogether. When you can describe why someone could care instead of just telling them that they should, you can sell. Teach a man to fish, and all that. Our experiences as fans are just as much a part of building the league and interest in the league as anything the leagues or teams are doing.

But of course, in order to share those experiences and stories, we have to have them, first.

Quick points from the Boston College-Rutgers game

Looks like Rutgers head coach Glenn Crooks is not happy with his team’s performance yesterday. Rutgers fell 3-1 to Boston College (ranked 4th in the nation). I would handwave the scoreline and “L” for this game–take issue with that Seton Hall loss on Friday!–but I agree, Rutgers made it easy on BC for most of the game. The visitors dominated without needing to put in much effort. Jonelle Filigno was the only consistent offensive presence for the Scarlet Knights, and you need more than one (albeit very good) player to compete with a defense like that. If this is the usual for Rutgers this year, then Filigno is going to be exhausted by the time the season ends.

Jillian Mastroianni (a US U-23) was a commanding presence in back for Boston College, although she was mostly unchallenged in this contest. She was vocal particularly at the start of the game, and she was called upon to make a few saves. However, in the closing seconds, she gave up BC’s second goal of the season:

At one point during the second half (I think), Mastroianni got in a footrace with a Rutgers player, chasing the ball way out of her box instead of clearing it. Very amusing for us and probably scary for the Eagles to see; confidence can only get you so far before it becomes reckless.

Victoria DiMartino had a decent game. It was definitely a better showing than she gave for the U-20s this year. No offsides, only hit the wood two or three times, took eight shots and assisted on the first goal. Similar to Filigno, she seems to be the main striker, but she has much more support (and BC definitely has other forward options). It was very interesting to see the offensive dynamic for BC, particularly how DiMartino and fellow U-20 Kristie Mewis factored in. Mewis, also with five shots and an assist (the third goal), did a great job of linking up DiMartino and the rest of the forwards.

Altogether, the BC-Rutgers women’s game was a good experience and good way to see both of these teams in person for the first time. I even took some video. The weather was good, the traffic wasn’t bad, and there were a fair amount of fans for both the home team and visitors. The game was the first of a double-header with the men’s team, which we didn’t stick around for. We passed by the field later while that match was still going on, and the crowd had shrunk considerably.  Have to admit, I was a little smug over that.

How are the U-20s doing in the NCAA season?

Since we are about a month into college play and certain U-20 influenced teams are having surprising results (both good and bad), I feel as though it would be beneficial to check up on the NCAA-based youth nationals. This list might be incomplete, as it’s mostly based on the clubs submitted to FIFA for the rosters. If I know that the players are with NCAA teams that aren’t included on FIFA’s rosters, then I have listed them (a couple of Mexico’s, for instance), but otherwise, I have probably missed a few internationals. Because Canada did not qualify for the World Cup, I have not included those players.

Arizona is 2-3-1 so far with wins over Cal Poly and Tennessee. This is a rough start to the season, and Pac-10 play won’t be any easier.

  • Renae Cuellar (Mexico) has played all six games. She has taken 26 shots (14 on goal), put away six goals (one game-winner), and recorded three assists. Overall, the Wildcats have 11 goals this season. You do the math.

Auburn is ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2007, at 21/25, having started the season 5-2-0. One of the highlights so far was beating Florida State 3-2 in an overtime game.

  • Ashley Kotero (Mexico) has played two games and already recorded two shots and a goal.
  • Bianca Sierra (Mexico) played all seven games with two starts. She has taken three shots and notched one assist.

Boston College (5) holds a 5-0-1 record, having tied Stanford in the season opener. They have had a decent non-conference schedule, but it’s not as competitive as some other teams’.

  • Victoria DiMartino (USA) is having a standard season: 19 shots (nine on goal), seven goals (two game-winners), and one assist.
  • Kristie Mewis (USA) has 18 shots (nine on goal), three goals (one game-winner), and five assists.

California is 4-0-2 on the season and ranked 18/19 in the nation. We might get a chance to see how they fare without Alex Morgan this season, as she is still getting call-ups for the USWNT.

  • Betsy Hassett (New Zealand) started in four of the six games she has played this season. She has taken seven shots, two of which were on goal.

Creighton is 4-2-2 and (unsurprisingly, as this is a Missouri Valley Conference school) not ranked.

  • Gabriella Guillen (Costa Rica) started two of her six games so far. She has taken six shots, one on goal, and recorded one assist.

Duke is having a good season, starting 5-1-1 and ranked 14/15 depending on whom you ask. The loss came at the hands of Stanford, and the tie was a scoreless draw with FIU.

  • Mollie Pathman (USA), a freshman, has played all seven games. She is credited with 15 shots (10 on goal), two goals (one game-winner), and two assists.

Florida State isn’t necessarily struggling, but 5-2-0 with losses away (Auburn) and at home (Florida!) could be troubling. At the very least, that home loss to Florida must smart. The Seminoles are ranked 8th in the nation.

  • Ines Jaurena (France) has started and played in six games (DNP vs Stetson). She has taken three shots (two on goal), scored one goal and assisted on another. She has also converted a penalty kick. Too bad she couldn’t play for the US.
  • Toni Pressley (USA) has also converted a pair of PKs this season. She has taken six shots (five on goal!) and scored two goals (one a game-winner). She also has an assist.
  • Casey Short (USA) hasn’t taken PKs, but she does have 13 shots (six on goal). She’s tallied one goal in seven games played.

Georgia has advanced to 21 in the national polls and is 4-2-1, with losses to surging Duke and strong Stanford teams and a recent tie with Santa Clara.

  • Ashley Baker (England), a redshirt freshman, has started all seven games for the Bulldogs. She is credited with 41 saves, has seven goals-against, and notched an assist in the Georgia State game. Right on, keeper.

IPFW is 2-5-0 to start. This probably won’t be the Mastadons’ best season.

  • Erin Nayler (New Zealand) has started six of the seven games she has played as a freshman. She and junior GK Kristen McFadden split netminding duties in a 4-3 loss to unbeaten SIUE. Nayler has 14 goals against and 37 saves.

Lynn University is a DII school in Florida. The team has a 3-0 record.

  • Melissa Ortiz (Columbia) has played 200 of 273 possible minutes. She leads the team with 17 shots taken. She has one goal and one assist.

Mississippi State is off to a 6-1-0 start but will probably struggle when meeting with Oklahoma State this weekend. MSU’s schedule doesn’t seem to have been strong so far.

  • Monica Alvarado (Mexico) started and played six games this season. Eight shots (five on goal) and one assist. She missed the recent game against Jackson State.

North Carolina, ranked No. 1, etc, etc. 6-0-1 with a tie against Stanford. Second verse, same as the first… twenty or so, right? Anson Dorrance has 700ish wins and says his team probably shouldn’t be No. 1. Okay then!

  • Amber Brooks (USA) is a regular starter for the Tar Heels. She has taken ten shots (half on goal) and scored with three of those.
  • Crystal Dunn (USA) is also a regular starter and has played at least a hundred more minutes than Brooks. She has taken a shot and notched an assist.
  • Meg Morris (USA) is a starter and only has about 400 minutes on the field, but she has taken four shots (one on goal) and tallied an assist.

Pacific spent September playing a surprisingly tough schedule against ranked teams. They are 2-4-1, highlighting with a recent tie against Oregon.

  • Angelica Figueroa (Mexico) started six of her seven games for Pacific. She has taken six shots, two on goal, and scored once. She also has three assists and a yellow card.  Her game-tying goal (and her yellow) came in the Oregon game.

Penn State is struggling more than expected this season. A strong schedule has left them 1-5-1 after a month of play. They have lost five straight games and mercifully dropped out of the top-25. Things are only going to get worse with Lexi Marton injured.

  • Maya Hayes (USA) has started six of seven games in her freshman year. She has 13 shots (seven on goal), two goals, and one assist. Not bad, compared to…
  • Christine Nairn (USA), one of the U-20 captains. She has started all seven games for the Nittany Lions, taken 27 shots (put only 8 on frame), scored two goals, and assisted one. This is a very frustrating season already. Edit: given my later comment on Leroux, it’s important to note that Nairn had a PK blocked (by 2008 U-20 GK Chantel Jones) in the game against Virginia. She did convert in the game against Portland, but the final result was disappointing.

Portland is, as my co-writer says, flying under the radar at No. 3 in the nation with a decent schedule (comparable to UNC’s, probably) and 8-0-0 record.

  • Kendall Johnson (USA) started all four of the games she has played in and took two shots. [A/N: knee injury, but not season ending?]

Oklahoma State, 5-1-0, has been okay against okay teams. They ended August with a loss to Portland.

  • Adrianna Franch (USA) has been sharing the net with two other keepers but played all six games. She has 19 saves and three goals against.

San Diego has played a good schedule so far and kept a decent 4-2-1 record. Their recent loss to UC Irvine is surprising, but they beat USC in the preseason!

  • Natalie Garcia (Mexico) is a regular starter. She has taken four shots, all on goal, and has one assist.

Santa Clara has played a mixed-strength non-conference schedule to a 4-1-2 record. The Broncos’ ties with Cal and Georgia are probably a good indicator of what can be expected this season. Somehow, SCU still sits at 9th in the polls.

  • Bianca Henninger (USA) has played all 670 minutes in goal for the Broncos. She has made 26 saves and has five goals against.

Stanford is off to a 4-0-2 start and ranked No. 2 in DI under UNC, who they tied soon after tying Boston College (both road games). All of the Cardinal’s U-20 players have been regular starters in all six games.

  • Alina Garciamendez (Mexico), Courtney Verloo (USA), and Rachel Quon (USA) are all playing on a backline that has only allowed six goals so far. Verloo has two shots and one assist. Quon has one shot, one goal, and one assist.
  • Teresa Noyola (USA) is an attacking midfielder with 16 shots (nine on goal), three goals, and three assists.

Texas is doing alright (5-1-1) so far, but the Longhorns are not in the top 25.

  • Leah Fortune (Brazil) has taken 21 shots with 12 of those on goal. Of two goals, one was a game winner. She also has three assists. She is a redshirt freshman this year, having lost most of 2009 to an ankle injury.

UC Irvine is Joan’s randomly chosen second favorite team! Their 4-1-2 record is highlighted by wins over Gonzaga and San Diego and draws with Cal and Pepperdine.

  • Mar Rodriguez (Mexico) has four shots (three on goal) and one goal!

UCLA is not off to an impressive start, but at least they aren’t as bad as Penn State. 4-1-1 so far, the Bruins lost to Northwestern, tied UC Santa Barbara, and needed overtime to beat Notre Dame. UCLA is ranked 10th.

  • Zakiya Bywaters (USA) has taken 19 shots (9 on goal), scored twice (one game-winner), and assisted once.
  • Sydney Leroux (USA) has taken 28 shots, half of them on frame. She has five goals, one assist, and (no joke) didn’t manage to convert her PK attempt. Maybe her four-goal game against Cal Poly makes up for that.
  • Jenna Richmond (USA) beats Leroux’s four goals with two against Notre Dame. 16 shots (11 on goal), 4 goals (2 game-winners), and an assist. As a freshman.

Webster University is DIII. They are 1-3-0 so far.

  • Maria Arias (Costa Rica) is one of two players on the roster not from Missouri or Illinois. I don’t think she’s played yet this season.

Trying to figure out how to watch college soccer? Me too.

With the college season underway, a big question of how to follow the games crops up. The coverage varies from season to season. I usually spend a good chunk of September trying to figure out whether I’m going to be able to watch any of my favorites. For instance, I had to nix my plans to be at the Penn State Invitational this weekend (going to the Philadelphia Independence game instead!) but I see that I might be able to watch Penn State-Virginia anyway? It’s hard to tell for certain.

Generally, at least a few schools have free webcasts on All-Access. (With this year’s redesign, I suggest scrolling down to the “sports” tab and isolating “women’s soccer.”) Not all schools make use of CBSSports.com, though. Not all conferences–because conferences can organize coverage, too!–make use of it, either. But it’s a good starting point.

If you read Cross-Conference on-site, you might notice the “How to follow NCAA women’s soccer” link up in our menu. For the past week, I have been piecing together schools that are currently offering free women’s soccer webcasts and a TV broadcast schedule. And by “piecing together,” I mean that I have started to go through schools’ athletics sites, conference by conference, and check for coverage. Yesterday I covered the CAA and Patriot League. Quite a diversity websites, and not all of them easy to navigate, so the least I can do is offer other college fans what I’ve found.

Because I am putting these pages together a little at a time, the pages will update throughout the season. If anyone knows of free webcast links that I haven’t listed yet, I would love to include them! Feel free to drop a comment, email, or tweet any time.

Not all minnows can be Kiwis around here

Brief post on account of the recent long posts and a topic most pertinent to my interests.

In general, I have a tenuous emotional investment with DePaul. Academically speaking, we had a relationship that suffered from lack of communication. In terms of athletics, we are on a casually friendly basis. This takes into account my preference for Big East powerhouse Notre Dame, and the Santa Clara connections on the staff.

Tina Estrada’s graduate assistant position at with the DePaul women’s soccer team has ended, and she is now a full-time assistant coach under Erin Chastain. That is the good news, and I suppose I might eventually stop joking about Estrada making a return to the pitch. Even a Bronco can only take so many ACL tears before it’s the end of the line.

Despite the Santa Clara love, though, I can’t think of any reason to care about DePaul’s women’s soccer team yet. “No Respect for DePaul Women’s Soccer Team” gets props for a bold headline,  but I think it’s asking for too much, too soon. It’s not so much disrespect as it is being realistic about DePaul’s chances. It’s possible DePaul could scoot up to fifth, maybe even fourth if the stars are aligned, but it’s hard to imagine the Blue Demons contending with the top three in their division. Last year’s big in-conference wins were over Louisville and Georgetown, and their first Big East Tournament ended after one game with USF.

No offense, DePaul. Knock off Nova or Rutgers, and we’ll talk.

Cal Bears 2009, in which Alex Morgan resembles Hope Solo (only better)

Although I was initially going to make this post along with (or instead of) the one about Hope Solo’s latest comments, I’m glad I held off. The discussion in the comments of that post has been good, and the delay gave colleges time to throw all sorts of preseason news at us–including this gem from DailyCal.org:

McGuire Looks to Build Unity After Late-Season Struggle

[U]nity was an obstacle last fall. [Head Coach Neil] McGuire quit briefly for personal reasons following a loss to Sacramento State, and the remainder of the season seemed to reflect internal conflict. […]

Although he attributes the downturn in Cal’s performance last season largely to injuries and is monitoring the players’ health, there could be other reasons to the Bears’ late loss of momentum.

The team’s record prior to McGuire’s short departure was 6-3. Following his absence, it was 5-6-1.

While he is aware of some of last season’s problems, McGuire also believes that the Bears’ have a fresh start this year.

“This is the 2010 team.” he said. “It’s not the 2009 team. It’s a different team, it’s a different attitude, it’s a different vision.”

I think that the average women’s soccer fan, if they pay attention to California Berkeley at all, do so because of Alex Morgan. I used to pay attention because the Bears have given my teams some grief over the years (and they gave up Chioma Igwe to SCU), but in recent seasons, I’ve paid attention because Cal is a friend’s alma mater. Knowing someone that is on-campus and cares about the team certainly does affect how I perceive the team. So with that in mind, I realize that not everyone was as caught up in the Bears’ 2009 season as I was. Not everyone is going to be insulted by The Daily Californian‘s new stance on the team and McGuire.

My unease with McGuire started early last last season, with the 4-1 win over Nevada. Alex Morgan had a hat trick and Lisa Kevorkian tallied a goal as well. In the writeup, only the coach is quoted:

“Lisa’s reading the line very, very well for us,” McGuire said. “She’s kind of a goal-a-game player. Sometimes it can be a first-class goal, and sometimes it can be off scrap.” […]

“Morgan has to credit the service she received,” McGuire said. “The first goal she worked for because she won the ball and scored. The rest of the goals she scored came from tremendous work from her teammates. That’s what our offense is all about – whether it be Alex scoring the goal and receiving from her teammates or her passing to her teammates.”

My discomfort came particularly from McGuire’s phrasing in talking about Morgan’s goal. “Has to credit,” and so on, as though Alex Morgan, whose modesty isn’t affected or simply fed to the media, wouldn’t have credited them herself? Morgan is Cal’s goalscorer (and what a shame that they have lost Kevorkian to grad school) but Megan Jesolva is the key component behind the forwards. I’m sure the team knows this. When she is injured, the midfield–and subsequently the team–struggles.

And Jesolva did get injured last season. Her first game out, Cal (ranked 7th at the time), lost 1-0 to Cal Poly. Even McGuire acknowledged where the problem was, if not how the team ended up that way: “One of the problems we have been having is that our midfielders are trying to do too many peoples’ jobs. That drill is meant to confine our midfielders to a given space and give them a real sense of what their responsibilities are.”

The Bears followed up with a 1-0 loss to Sacramento State. Immediately following the game, McGuire quit the coaching position: “Reportedly, McGuire was so upset after the game that he told his squad in the locker room that he was done, leaving the Bears without a head coach for Sunday’s matchup against No. 11 Santa Clara which resulted in a 1-1 draw.” This from student journalist Joseph Cannon, who had an established relationship with the team and would continue to cover the situation as it unfolded. The news broke, however, through star player Alex Morgan’s twitter account:

October 3

  • @alexmorgan13: you turned your back on us once we can and will turn our backs on you for good. you are not welcome back
  • @alexmorgan13: practice time… will there be an unpleasant surprise? i hope not
  • @alexmorgan13: happy about how practice went…so READY for tomorrow’s game!!!

October 4

  • @alexmorgan13: game [today] vs. santa clara… i have a good feeling about this one
  • Santaclarabroncos.com noted in its original release regarding the game that Neil McGuire was not with the visiting Bears.
  • Callbears.com: Volunteer assistant coach Kelly Lindsey managed the team today as head coach Neil McGuire was attending to personal matters.
  • @alexmorgan13: bears tied the broncos 1-1… we wanted it more…we fought until the end. 110 minutes later. good job bears i love you girls

October 5

“I wasn’t happy or sad. I was indifferent. My team is the only thing that matters to me. And if (McGuire) ever comes back, then we will deal with it then.” McGuire has shown his emotions after losses before, like last year when he kicked the team out of the locker room after a brutal collapse against Cal State Fullerton. But he has never done this before.

“It’s really important for us to sit tight and let Neil and the administration work through this,” Lindsey said. “We just have to try to keep the wheels on the bus until a final decision is made and we can all move forward.”

Cannon’s article came late enough that it was published on the same day as the “official channels” at Cal announced McGuire’s return:

Head Coach Neil McGuire Returns to Team. Neil McGuire, who missed Sunday’s game at Santa Clara to attend to personal business, has returned to the team and will continue as Cal’s women’s soccer coach. Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour reiterated her support for McGuire, who has guided the Golden Bears to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearance in his first two seasons at the helm.

The juxtaposition of Cannon’s articles to the official statements given by McGuire and Barbour (echoed by The Daily Californian here) could raise some eyebrows… or some ire, as demonstrated by Andrew Brining on Bleacher Report. He wasn’t the only one. Alumni weighed in, and Morgan continued to tweet.

October 6

  • @alexmorgan13: long long day. big headache, tired, frustrated. Thank you for all the support in the past few days.

October 9

Cal would salvage their season and make the postseason tournament despite McGuire, which I think bears a lot of quoting here.

“I think we took the team as far as we could have taken it, considering all the adversity we were up against,” junior Alex Morgan said.

It wasn’t much of a team at all, though. The Bears were divided, players versus coach.

“A coach is a coach, players are what make a team,” senior co-captain Brianna Bak said just days after McGuire temporarily left the team for personal reasons.

That statement became almost a mantra with the players, who would turn any question regarding “the situation” with their coach into a chance to talk about the bond they shared as sisters.

“It’s in the past now,” McGuire said less than a week after the incident, which was chronologically correct but realistically improbable, as he had yet to speak with each player individually.

There weren’t any examples of dissent from the players in games or during interviews, yet it began to surface in their record. After starting off with a promising 6-3 record, Cal finished the season going 5-6-1, tossing together a rough 4-5 trip through the Pac-10.

And while I think it’s telling that Kelly Lindsey (yes, that Kelly Lindsey, the one that turned Sky Blue FC’s season around last year) was named associate head coach in February 2010, Shek Borkowski probably says it better than I could.

McGuire is right. This year’s Bears are not the 2009 team. The individual players combined for a striking whole, but who’s to say whether 2010 could overcome the same kind of adversity? I have a lot of respect for the 2009 team and the seniors that graduated, and not just because of how they functioned as a team. Sandwiched between the coaching mess at Sky Blue FC and Hope Solo’s recent outburst on Twitter, the Cal debacle informs and reinforces my pro-player, pro-social media stance at any level of the sport.

I don’t have faith in the “appropriate channels.” I don’t think the Cal story could have unfolded like it did without new media components. I think that if Alex Morgan had taken her complaint to the “appropriate channels,” not only would nothing have been done (as we see in McGuire’s continued head coaching position), but nothing would have been said, either. The players, their relationship with the student journalist, and their willingness to take advantage of the open forum of the internet made the other side of the story public.

But as we’ve discussed in comments on my previous post, just because the information is out there, doesn’t mean people have or will see it. I know I wouldn’t have been able to read as much as I did if I wasn’t guided to the sources by someone on that campus who cared enough to find the news and share it. Since so much of women’s soccer has to be passed along this way, I don’t see why people are so quick to discredit it. A degree of judgment needs to go into how much of each story you accept, but how do you justify telling Alex Morgan, Joseph Cannon, and the 2009 team that their side doesn’t count, simply because it hasn’t been filtered by a system that doesn’t want to acknowledge them anyway?

Notre Dame vs. Santa Clara, another clash of the Catholics

The NCAA preseason is somehow even more exciting than a WPS preseason. There is more stability, consistency, and potential. NCAA soccer is like a beloved soap opera, with long-running story lines, “family” histories, and recurring characters and guest stars. In fact, I far prefer college soccer over any TV series or movie. The perpetual Gryffindor vs. Slytherin’s got nothing on this. Hope Solo vs. the Boston Breakers’ Riptide cannot distract me.

Our favorite rivalry here on Cross-Conference is Santa Clara-Portland. But a personal favorite match-up of mine isn’t a rivalry so much as that one annual non-conference game where I cannot lose. With Santa Clara vs. Portland, the outcome holds significant stakes. With Santa Clara vs. Notre Dame, there is this strange sense of two sides of the same coin. There are no advantages to winning (Notre Dame currently owns the series, though, 9-6-0). It means nothing in the grand scheme of things; the results don’t impact either team’s seasons. The teams have alternated winning in recent years–generally at home–making the outcome as shockingly predictable as Bronco injuries.

The teams’ first meeting was October 8, 1995. Notre Dame hosted and won 1-0. The Irish were ranked #2 at the time, and the Broncos were #8. Santa Clara finished at #7. Notre Dame finished the season at #4, but of course beat North Carolina then Portland 1-0 for the championship. Notre Dame 1, Santa Clara 0.

Santa Clara hosted October 13, 1996. Notre Dame appears to have been having a good season. They started ranked #2 in the nation, beat UNC in Durham three games prior, and were ranked #1 to SCU’s #9 the week of the game. Despite the Broncos’ 3-1 win, the Irish maintained the top spot through the end of the season, where they beat Portland in the semis and fell 1-0 in overtime to UNC. Santa Clara climbed to #3 and not only hosted the Final Four, but played in the semis as well. Notre Dame 1, Santa Clara 1.

There is a curious gap from ’97-’98, but Santa Clara hosted once again October 17, 1999. This was a year that Santa Clara was unbeaten and top ranked, with players such as Aly Wagner, Kylie Bivens, Kim Pickup, Danielle Slaton, Devvyn Hawkins, and Jacqui Little in the starting lineup. Notre Dame, ranked #6, had the likes of Jen Grubb, Monica Gonzales, Kelly Lindsey, and Anne Makinen. The final score was 4-2, with goals by Wagner (2), Hawkins, Clemens, Makinen, and Grubb. When the two teams met later that season in the semifinals, Notre Dame prevailed 1-0, then fell to UNC in the finals. Notre Dame 2, Santa Clara 2.

Then Santa Clara went through one of the usual skids. Although the Broncos were #2 at the time, they would end the season #3 in the WCC and #7 in the nation, dropping out of the post-season in the quarter finals (a 2-1 loss to the Irish, who then lost to UNC). Notre Dame hosted the regular season match-up September 8, 2000, and won 6-1. Interesting note about this game: Jerry Smith is quoted as saying that the Broncos had only 13 players healthy for this game. Gotta love the Broncos and their shallow bench. Notre Dame 4, Santa Clara 2.

Although a Notre Dame-SCU match-up was scheduled to be hosted at Santa Clara in 2001, the September 14 game was postponed in light of 9-11 and ultimately canceled. Notre Dame (#7) ended the season poorly with a loss at home to Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Santa Clara, on the other hand, enjoyed a successful season that culminated in defeating North Carolina 1-0 in the Championship and winding up the school of choice in Bend It Like Beckham.

We can assume, given that SCU was supposed to host in 2001, that the Broncos would have won that year. Notre Dame hosted September 6, 2002, and Santa Clara pulled the rare road win in this series, blanking the Irish 4-0. These are some spectacular rosters. There were three US U-19 champions with the Broncos and two Canadian runners-up with Notre Dame. Cat Sigler played her one game in this series for the Irish, and sophomore transfer Megan Kakadelas made her first appearance for the Bronocs. This was SCU’s first win of the season and the first at Notre Dame. Despite a strange start to the season, Santa Clara would beat UNC in the semis and fall to Portland in the Final. Notre Dame fell to Stanford in the third round. Notre Dame 4, Santa Clara 3.

September 21, 2003, Notre Dame claimed its road win, 2-1. Goals came from Boland, Thorlakson, and Dalmy. SCU bowed out of the postseason in a quarterfinal loss to UNC, and Notre Dame struggled, falling in the second round to Michigan. Notre Dame 5, Santa Clara 3.

September 5, 2004 marked a return to South Bend and a return to the home team winning. Notre Dame, ranked #2, beat #4 Santa Clara 5-2. Katie Thorlakson notched a hat trick and two assists, with those goals going to Jen Buczkowski and Candace Chapman. Seniors Leslie Osborne and Megan Kakadelas scored for the Broncos. Notre Dame was pretty much on fire, ending the season by beating SCU in the semifinals 1-0, then conquered UCLA in PKs to win the championship. Notre Dame 7, Santa Clara 3.

“It sure is great when a plan comes together.” Sort of ridiculous, but hosts Santa Clara (#5/#6) beat top-ranked Notre Dame 2-1, September 5, 2005. Notre Dame’s lone goal was “assisted” by Katie Thorlakson and “scored” by former Irish Cat Sigler. UND and SCU were knocked out in the quarterfinals that year by Portland and Penn State, respectively. Notre Dame 7, Santa Clara 4.

September 3, 2006, two No. 1 ranked teams met in South Bend. Notre Dame prevailed, 3-1, and charged unbeaten into the final against North Carolina, who took the title 2-1. Santa Clara’s serious streak of injury woes began this season, and the Broncos fell in the first round of the postseason to USC. Notre Dame 8, Santa Clara 4.

The following season proved strange (and bittersweet) for both teams. Santa Clara hosted on September 7, 2007, and posted a 7-1 win over Notre Dame. Brittany Klein scored twice unassisted, and Kiki Bosio scored and assisted twice. The Broncos once again dropped in the first round, this time to Cal. Notre Dame posted a few losses, then turned its game around and headed towards the Final Four, only to fall in the semis to Florida State. Notre Dame 8, Santa Clara 5.

2008’s 2-0 result wasn’t as bad as it could have been. August 31, the two teams met in South Bend in a game that was actually webcast! Erica Iantorno scored for the Irish, and Dani Potts put in an own goal for the Broncos. Still, it was more fun than the rest of the season would be. Santa Clara got progressively worse and missed the postseason entirely, and Notre Dame broke my heart in a 2-1 loss to North Carolina in the Final. Thank God for the US U-20s that year. Notre Dame 9, Santa Clara 5.

September 11, 2009, at Santa Clara – Notre Dame was ranked 5th in the nation, and Santa Clara wasn’t even a top 25 at that point, due to a terrible 2008 and an iffy start to 2009. The Broncos won, 2-0. The recap opens with a bold statement that proved startlingly true through the end of the season: “The Santa Clara women’s soccer team made a statement to the nation this evening; the Broncos are back.” Jordan Angeli and Lauren Matheson scored for the Broncos. Notre Dame, awesome as ever with its media, offered a thorough preview and recap. I highly recommend taking video wherever you can get it. The Irish finished the season by falling to UNC in the semis (not surprising, as wasn’t a particularly good year for them), and the Broncos fought well, even through a third round 1-0 loss to unbeaten Stanford. Notre Dame 9, Santa Clara 6.

Notre Dame hosts the 2010 match-up September 3. Technically, it should be an Irish win, but only if you believe the trends. And either way, if you can appreciate both teams, what is there to lose