So much love, it’s like we’re in Portland.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. This is my first Thanksgiving at home in two years, so I am super grateful for that and won’t be around much this weekend. Still, I want to take this opportunity to thank some people that have been a big help to Cross-Conference.

Tiffany Weimer, for your encouragement, ideas, and sense of humor. You jumped in and gave us a push when we needed it.

Shek Borkowski, again for the encouragement, but also for not pulling punches when it comes to your analysis of women’s soccer. Someone has to tell it like it is, and you do that well.

Kai Edwards, for taking an interest and inviting us to come watch your team play. We both plan to look into making this happen in the new year.

The Portland Pilots and Santa Clara Broncos, for being so generous with your time and, in some cases, helping us connect with other people in order to make the rivalry project happen. Your alumni, current players, SIDs, and coaches were very accommodating and great to work with.

The 2010 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, for thrashing UNC out of the NCAA tournament. Enough said.

Alina Garciamendez, for making sure we have a reason to say your name nearly every podcast. It’s like magic.

And on a personal note, I’d like to thank Joan for saying “Let’s wait” when we first started talking about Cross-Conference and “Let’s do it” when it was time to get rolling.

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.]

A fan’s take on the Portland-Santa Clara rivalry project

Personal fandom is a tricky thing.

When I started following soccer, I came in through the usual gateway: the US Women’s National Team and UNC. I had no familial or regional ties in women’s soccer and hadn’t quite grasped whatever it was that keeps a family loyal to a particular school. I approached women’s soccer with the same voraciousness that I approached anything at that age, and I very quickly branched out beyond those starter teams. I feel pretty fortunate to have outgrown UNC as soon as I did, because I immediately wound up falling in love with Santa Clara. This turned out to be my team, the one that I realized I was going to stick with through thick and thin, not just because they had umpteen-odd national championships.

I’ve never been to the Bay Area. I don’t have any family in California. SCU doesn’t have a football team, so most people I run into don’t even know this school exists. I have had to build this fannishness myself, and I have had to sustain it in isolation. Through injuries, through missing the postseason, through transfers and suspensions. Through a good friend’s Portland Pilots obsession. I realize that I lose credit for not being born into it and not being on the right coast. I might as well be following UC Irvine, right?

What initially drew me to the Broncos was the style of play. I look at the way Marian Dalmy and Leslie Osborne hit the field, and in my mind, that is SCU soccer. It’s tough and graceful, sometimes broken and sometimes triumphant.  The roster from those first couple of years that I was following are still larger than life for me. Most other 20-something fans of women’s soccer have the 91ers and 1999 with the USWNT, but I have the early 2000s with Santa Clara. Julie Juarez is my Brianna Scurry.

What Julie said in her interview, about women’s soccer being a labor of love, is an echo of what you hear everywhere else. But that doesn’t make it less true. When Joan started the UP-SCU rivalry project, it was just an idea with a lot of possibilities–a lot of maybes and maybe-nots. We didn’t know how we were going to reach players or if they were going to respond. But as you can see, things fell into place, snowballed, and here we are.

With interviews on both sides of the rivalry, I have learned a lot more about my team. To be honest, I’ve felt sort of out of touch with them this year. There are 12 freshmen, few ways for me to catch up on the game, and the occasional reminder that the last group of rookies that I let myself get really attached to have (mostly) graduated. Although I had joked about it after our interview with Julie–about how I sort of feel like I’m in one of those cultures where the infant mortality rate is so high that children aren’t named until a week or year old so the parents don’t get too attached–the distancing really hit home when we talked to Maxine.

This project has turned me back around, let me bring that extra energy from my earlier years as a fan and tie them to the present team. It’s still Santa Clara. I don’t have to worry about trades or whether the Broncos are going to fold. I can joke about injuries and I know there is the occasional transfer, but the great thing about Santa Clara is the consistency of character and style, the continual fight without undue or unchallenged dominance. No matter what, I’ve never had a boring season with the Broncos.

When Santa Clara hosts Portland on Sunday, it’s not going to be like other years. We have heard over and over again from the players that they were mostly aware of the rivalry before they picked their school, but they didn’t grasp the depth of it until that match-up their freshman year and finding the atmosphere changed, just because of this game.

For the Broncos this year, twelve freshmen, whether on the bench or on the field, are going to experience that for the first time.

I am seriously excited for them, no matter what the outcome.

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.

Aha! Logic behind Notre Dame’s webcast schedule.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish logo

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been testy this season about internal coverage of NCAA women’s soccer. I’ve harped about Notre Dame’s coverage in particular, because while the coverage is still top notch, it isn’t quite at the level that it used to be. Indeed, Irish fans (and fans of teams that play the Irish) are spoiled. The free webcasts for home games have dropped off, which is probably what makes me the crankiest. It didn’t seem like there was any rhyme or reason to the home games that have been webcast–why show Texas Tech instead of Santa Clara? Why this Syracuse game tonight, but not Minnesota or Milwaukee in August?

Associate Athletic Media Relations Director Chris Masters has volunteered the answers, which I will boil down to basics: there have been cutbacks in multimedia staffing, which means that when a home game for women’s soccer overlaps a home football pep rally… you don’t even have to do the math. Pretty much everyone knows Hope Solo is crazy when she says the numbers don’t matter. The Texas Tech webcast was not “instead of” Santa Clara, and the Minnesota and Milwaukee games both occurred before school was back in session. This Friday’s game will have a webcast because football is away this weekend, but next weekend will be audio only because football is at home.

Notre Dame has four more women’s soccer home games in the regular season:

  • Tonight, against Syracuse (webcast, 7:30 pm Eastern)
  • Sunday, against St. John’s (televised on CBS College Sports, with audio online, 12 pm)
  • Friday, against Seton Hall (audio only because of football, 7:30 pm Eastern)
  • Sunday, October 10, Senior Day against Rutgers (televised on ESPNU, 1 pm Eastern)
  • …and you have to consider that Notre Dame will go deep enough in the Big East and NCAA tournaments to merit even more televised or webcast games.

Not that Notre Dame really needs to justify the webcast schedule. The Irish would have a very strong web presence even without video. Online audio coverage is available, and interactive live blogs provide a good alternative to GameTracker. There are three options for different kinds of coverage via Twitter (@NDSoccer and @NDsoccernews), including an account for Head Coach Randy Waldrum (@NDCoachWaldrum), who is very personable.

It’s rough not having as much video from South Bend this year, because this is one of the few college teams that I’ve been able to see regularly. So it’s nice to know that the people in charge out there are aware that the loss has been felt and are doing what they reasonably can to give the fans updates. Masters, in particular, has the insane job of being SID for both women’s soccer and women’s basketball, another one of those rare women’s sports programs that receives surprisingly good (and free!) coverage.

Gotta love the Irish. Gotta transition from persecuted WPS/pro-soccer mode to enthusiastic and happy NCAA mode. Gotta watch the game wherever you can get it.

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.

WCC welcomes BYU!

Now that I’m “back” from my vacation (WPS games of Boston-Philly and FC Gold Pride-Sky Blue FC and webcasts of the Women’s Rugby World Cup) it’s time to belatedly mention the West Coast Conference expansion!

The new West Coast Conference map, courtesy of WCCSports.com.

Brigham Young University will be leaving the Mountain West Conference to join our beloved West Coast Conference in 2011. According to the press release, “This is the first time the West Coast Conference has formally invited an institution as a full member since Gonzaga University and the University of San Diego began competing in the WCC in 1979.” There is a lot of emphasis in all of the quotes about BYU being a “private, faith-based institution with a strong academic reputation and tradition of excellence in athletics,” which is one of the cool things about the WCC. The press conference from BYU emphasizes that this move will give them more media exposure and make them more accessible.

The big drawback with BYU is that they have a football program–but that will not be affiliated with the WCC and will go independent. Other sports that won’t compete in the WCC include track and field, softball, and swimming.

So what does this mean for women’s soccer? I think it will make the conference schedule more competitive. BYU recently beat Northwestern (2-1) and Washington State (3-1). Both are ranked opponents from strong conferences. Northwestern, notably, beat UCLA 1-0 this season. BYU is off to a strong start already, ranked 12th in the nation, and they have a decent schedule overall in 2010. Coming up, they will play LSU, Marquette, Texas, New Mexico, Santa Clara, and Utah. Last season, they beat ranked UConn, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Oregon and advanced to the second round of the NCAAs (dropping to Stanford).

And because this is CCC, I have to plug the social media: