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.

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.

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.

The Biggest Game of the Year: Part 1

There are important soccer rivalries all around the world each year. SuperClásicoEl Clásico. ManU-Liverpool. For me, the Rome derby. These are storied rivalries, each fan will probably find themselves at their greatest absolute value of emotion at some point during the game. But these games are played at least twice a season.  Three times or more in the case of cup ties.

In the world of college soccer, there may be only one great rivalry, maybe only one great Game in the year. The Santa Clara-Portland game.  Does any match-up in the country have their history?  Their stakes?  Typically, the team that wins their annual meeting will go on to win the WCC, which includes a berth to the NCAA playoffs. The crowd for this game will be the largest for the home team stadium that season. (Except for Portland, whose attendance increases in the post-season. (Assuming they have home games in the post-season.))  The Game is frequently sold out as far as a week in advance. It is consistently televised nationally.

The Game is special. It typically happens only once per year, but every year. (The WCC, unlike other conferences does not have an annual tournament. Whoever is at the top of the conference table is the WCC Champion that year, much like European leagues.) Not even the storied University of North Carolina can boast such a significant game. Perhaps, as their supporters suggest, it is because they have no true rivals. Even if they did, these rivals would not be in the ACC, and so would be unlikely to play UNC annually.

What makes this rivalry so interesting?  Why does it matter?  Well, for one, women’s soccer is the flagship sport for both schools.  Both schools have a history of developing future stars of the US (and Canadian) Women’s National Team. They like to play possession-oriented, beautiful soccer.

Taking a step back and speaking personally, it’s my favorite game of the season. (And I’m including AS Roma games, here) I’ll probably talk about it once or five times every few weeks until October 24. I’m going to do my best to distill it in a series of posts, grabbing from outside sources and from my co-writer, and really get to the heart of what is, for me, the biggest game of the year.

And to think I was planning to write about the Pac-10…

Before the Cross-Conference Collector became the two-person, two-pronged project that it is today, it was my personal return to sports blogging. I’ve had an off and on relationship with such things over the years, but “Cross-Conference Collector” is the name that has stuck since 2008. These seven or eight months of working on the project with Joan are the most consistent that I’ve ever been with the blog.

For me, the name of this blog has personal significance. It stems from my preference for college sports and my affinity for conferences. I like that breakdown, I like the way it functions, and I like the way those affiliations and borders function. So, mainly, the name of the blog referred to how I “collect” teams to follow in various conferences, and that’s how I get to know those conferences and the teams within them.

But with the two of us here, “Cross-Conference” takes on added meaning. Joan is a Portland Pilots fan, and I, for all that I collect college teams, am first and foremost a Santa Clara Broncos fan. Portland and SCU are West Coast Conference schools, and both are religiously affiliated. In fact, all of the schools in the conference are affiliated with Christian denominations (mostly Catholic and most of those, Jesuit).

The SCU-Portland match-up is one of most important games of every fall season. These two schools are consistently the top of the conference. They have both won the national championship. Santa Clara has, on occasion, beaten UNC. This is the in-conference rivalry, and it’s generally televised. Are there other women’s college soccer rivalries that get that honor?

This year, our game is at Santa Clara on Sunday, October 24, on ESPNU. Regardless of how the rest of the season goes–Dear God, please spare the Broncos’ ligaments this year–this is the game Cross-Conference looks forward to.

Cross-Conference ‘Cast – Episode 10 – I Just Have a Lot of Feelings

Episode 10 is live!    Just assume we are right about everything. (Except that I said Lindsey Huie was a left midfielder. She was on the right. Mea culpa.)
Songs:
  • “Deserts & Lezards” – La Caution & Chateu Flight
  • “Unpersuaded” – Moving Units
  • “Shame” – Lewis Taylor
  • “Bad For You” – Haley Bonar

Action Item:

Discussion points:

  • WPS results (SBFC fires their coach, Chicago Red Stars just make me angry AND disappointed and then also make some roster changes.)
  • U-20 Women’s World Cup (we were right about the US and delighted about Mexico)
  • Sydney Leroux and UCLA does nothing with talented players.
  • GARCIAMENDEZ.
  • No, really. GARCIAMENDEZ.
  • We’ve come pretty far. We hope to get better. Thank you for listening!

Contact us: