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 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.

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.

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.

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.