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.

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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.

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

In honor of the NCAA preseason starting this week

A few weeks ago, an anon on tumblr asked who my top 5 players were to watch for this upcoming college season. That is a really hard question to answer, because I presume the question is meant in terms of skill and record-breaking and the like. Those aren’t the reasons I find players worth following. Besides, you know everyone is going to be keeping an eye on the current seniors from the 2008 U-20 team. Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux are going to be the ones under scrutiny. They’re a two-year tired story. Obviously, the players you really need to keep an eye on if you liked 2008 are at Portland.

So I came back to the question with a somewhat better, if redirected, answer. Switch “teams” for “players,” and I can give you a Top 5 and honorable mentions. This hasn’t changed, even now that the U-20s finished their crash and burn cycle.

Here are my top 5 teams to watch this season in NCAA women’s soccer, and my reasons to jump on the emotional roller coaster with them.

  • Santa Clara. I always watch Santa Clara – for the injuries, for the chemistry, for the mocking (so many captains!), for the goalkeepers and backlines. I waited patiently through the injuries of 2006, 2007, and 2008 for the team’s return in 2009. I think a lot of their comeback can be attributed to the strength and determination of the two senior captains, the energy brought by the freshman class, and the confidence and skill of their starting goalkeeper. I think Olivia Klei’s health and the team’s overall fitness and chemistry will factor into SCU’s ability to contend with an equally strong, more consistent Portland team.
  • Boston College. This is a team that finally burst out of the ACC shadow last season, again because all of the pieces were in place: senior leadership, freshman energy, team chemistry, and a wild but underrated goalkeeper. The question this year is whether the team can maintain their focus without the graduating class, and now that they don’t have the element of surprise.
  • Stanford. Kelley O’Hara and Ali Riley were huge in the Cardinal’s resurgence. This team still has big names, though, and the incoming and future freshmen are solid bets. But can they dominate UCLA this year? Will Alex Morgan try to make something of her senior season at Cal? The Pac-10 is worth watching, and I will be taking it in from a Stanford angle.
  • Penn State. The only question I have related to the graduating seniors is who will the Nittany Lions trust in goal? Otherwise, I am excited to see the sophomores and freshmen carve out new space for themselves on this team. I want them to do well. I think they can, and I want to enjoy that. From youth, they can only get better. [Additionally, I can’t wait to see how Nairn approaches this season, considering how the U-20 WWC went down.]
  • Notre Dame. Again, a team I always follow. This year, I feel more mellow than usual. Lauren Fowlkes is a senior, and who knows what position she will end up playing this year. Leon and Laddish are joining the team. Melissa Henderson might keep scoring! A couple of last year’s non-seniors have left the team. Etc. This team entertains me year in and year out, and I love their coach, Randy Waldrum. He is one of the few coaches in any sport that I like and respect both on the field and off. The rumors that are going around about his being back on the market worry me. The fact that he’s signed with LTA worries me. So I am watching very, very closely this year.

My honorable mentions go to Wisconsin and Virginia. The Badgers have the potential to challenge Penn State again this year. The Cavaliers might or might not make a real showing this season, but I like to have the background when I feel like something big is coming. I definitely feel like their future recruiting classes are going to bring something special to a team I already like.

And as I said above (so it shouldn’t require any mention at all), it’s important to watch Portland this year. They have the seniors.

Closing the book on the 2010 U-20 Women’s World Cup

I have been remiss about wrapping up the U-20 Women’s World Cup, but the results were as foretold. Germany thrashed Korea Republic 5-1 in the semis, and Nigeria advanced to the Championship Game 1-0 over Columbia. Then Germany proceeded to claim the gold in a 2-0 game. They are the first hosts to win the cup (previously, only Canada got close, taking second in the inaugural tournament). Korea Republic concluded by beating Columbia 1-0.

Every year except 2004, the same player to win the adidas Golden Boot has also won the adidas Golden Ball. In 2010, those honors go to Alexandra Popp. FIFA’s Fair Play award goes to Korea Republic, which is the sort of thing that makes me laugh.

adidas Gold, Silver and Bronze Balls
adidas Golden Ball: Alexandra Popp (GER, who won 50.79% of votes from the accreditied media at the event)
adidas Silver Ball: Ji So-Yun (KOR, 14.66%)
adidas Bronze Ball: Kim Kulig (GER, 9.16%)

adidas Gold, Silver and Bronze Shoes
adidas Golden Boot:  Alexandra Popp (GER) – 10 goals
adidas Silver Boot: Ji So-Yun (KOR) – 8 goals
adidas Bronze Boot: Sydney Leroux (USA) – 5 goals

My, how the mighty have fallen.

However, the US did not finish the tournament completely empty handed and disgraced. FIFA showed the love to Santa Clara’s Bianca Henninger–and really, how could they not? She is an incredible goalkeeper, without peer in her age group.

Adidas Golden Glove
American goalkeeper Bianca Henninger showed throughout the tournament that she is very much the number one, and not just for the USA U-20 team. The 19-year-old was in sparkling form as soon as she got to Germany, and conceded only one goal during the group stage. Defeat finally came, but only after penalties against Nigeria in the quarter-finals. A calming presence, she is also rock-solid when it comes to catching crosses, and communicates well with her defenders.

This, despite the USA’s loss in penalty kicks. As I’ve said, this wasn’t lost on saves; this was lost on the inability to convert and score. (Was there a reason Henninger wasn’t lined up to take a PK?) The Bronco captain-slash-keeper was one of the best parts of this entire mess, and I hope she can charge unshaken into the fall season.