NCAA College Cup TV schedule

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

Friday, December 3

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

Sunday, December 5

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

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

Irish press conferences: always better than UNC’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could write about Stanford or BC, but no…

Let's see those ass-kicking cowboy boots, Coach.

It’s been almost a month since I wrote anything about Notre Dame, although I have talked about the Irish in the tournament in our podcast. Previously, I was cranky about Notre Dame’s loss to UConn in the Big East tournament, but apparently that was good for the Irish. They got some time “off,” and they came back strong for the NCAA tournament.

This season was sort of reminiscent of 2007. It’s been a shaky couple of months, possibly tempered for me by Penn State’s stutter-stop 2010. Knaack was dropped from the roster, the freshmen settled in (right? At least a few of them did), and the senior class has returned to the Final Four. As a four-seed, they sliced through New Mexico, returned to proper Irish form against USC, thrashed top-seeded UNC in North Carolina, and survived again on the road against Oklahoma State. This has been a really, really good run for the Irish after a challenging season. Given the spanking they gave the Tar Heels, I would say that although this season isn’t over yet, it’s been a success.

On Friday, Notre Dame meets Ohio State in the 4 p.m. (ET) semifinal. ESPN2/ESPNU should be carrying the game, as well as ESPN3.com. That’s right, the webcast is for Notre Dame-Ohio State, not Stanford-Boston College (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPNU). Four different conferences are represented, two schools are hitting a consecutive Final Four, and two are in their first semifinal. There are very few ways that a tournament in North Carolina without UNC can go wrong, and with the Irish in the mix, there are a lot of ways it can go right.

Leah Fortune: The Pearls Profit

For the past week or so, women’s soccer is the busiest that is has been since 2008. Last night, NCAA  released the post-season playing field for D-I and D-II. The US scraped out third place in world cup qualifiers. Canada and Mexico played a much-improved game that Canada got the best of–but hey, Mexico still has the honor of having cut the US down! There was further talk about Florida State, about Leslie Osborne being invited back to save the national team, and whether Alex Morgan is actually going to finish her college career.

But a significant part of my evening dealt with Leah Fortune and the news that she had been injured. As soon as “MRI” was mentioned–well, that says it all, doesn’t it? Leah left University of Texas to take full advantage of her opportunity to play for Brazil. From a soccer standpoint, I understand her decision. I am wary of her reasoning, though, as I don’t share her religious views–but to each their own. I have continued to follow her. Somewhat cynical, I mentioned to a friend that I wondered which verse Leah was going to use to explain the misfortune of leaving school to pursue a national team, only to have it all cut short in her first game. Really, what I was wondering was, is Leah someone that would write this off as part of God’s plan, or would she dig into it, interrogate and grapple with it? Because I cannot understand the first, but the second can make a person (of any persuasion) stronger.

The conversation that followed my comment isn’t important, but Leah’s blog is.  It’s easy to doubt a person when you don’t share their deeply held beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that you are rooting against them or can’t connect with them at all. I read the first line and almost laughed with relief. It’s terrible that this athlete has torn her ACL, but I seriously admire her response to the situation. She isn’t passive. She isn’t letting herself be carried. She is going to fight like hell.

And I want to take note of this because, as my co-writer has said, bloggers are quick to criticize or mock athletes who cite faith as their motivation. So, to be clear, I don’t share Leah’s convictions, but that doesn’t stop me from finding inspiration in her journey.

I take that back, Notre Dame

2009–10 Big East Conference men's basketball s...

…what I said about not being a disappointment. I wasn’t aware that the Irish could be jinxed, but apparently I’ve done it.

The 2-0 loss in Big East quarterfinals, at Alumni Field, is a step away from unacceptable. It’s not like Notre Dame lacks the experience and personnel to win a crucial Big East game at home over this year’s UConn. But! I still believe the Irish are the kind of team that you can light a fire under. Better now than in NCAAs, right?

In other “What the hell?” NCAA news, Ohio State dropped an L against Indiana today, allowing Penn State to tie for first place. Check it:

Penn State’s win coupled with Ohio State’s upset loss at Indiana on Sunday moves the Nittany Lions into a tie for first with OSU. Both teams are tied atop the standings at 7-2-0 with 21 points, while Wisconsin is a point behind at 6-1-2. All three teams have one game left to play.

The ACC standings are also behaving strangely, but that is only worth noting if UNC doesn’t tally a W today.

Much later: Santa Clara, that red card better be epic.

Chile, look the other way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notre Dame at Villanova, mostly just musing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.