Washington State University, coming off a 10-6-5 season that produced an at-large berth in the 2008 NCAA playoffs, again appears to be the bully of the area’s three Division I women’s soccer programs, having already disposed of Idaho and Gonzaga by identical 3-0 scores.
Now the Cougars (3-2), who were ranked No. 19 prior to losing to Colorado College late last month and to 5th-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday, get another chance to test themselves against a national opponent when they open their home schedule on Thursday with a 3 p.m. non-conference match against BYU.
Coach Matt Potter returns all 11 starters from last year, including senior forward Kiersten Dallstream, who has already scored six goals this fall. Dallstream gave WSU its only goal in the 4-1 loss to FSU, but Potter faces no shortage of firepower on a veteran team that was picked to finish sixth in the Pacific-10 Conference in a preseason poll of league coaches.
“The unique situation of not graduating any players from our NCAA campaign last year, coupled with the addition of 10 freshmen and one transfer, it is no wonder we are eager to get started,” Potter said prior to the start of the Cougars’ 20th anniversary season. “Competition, depth, experience – you could really make a case for us having all the tools in place to build on the successes of last season.”
Last year’s leading scorer Elysse Van Leer returns to join Dallstream up front, and sophomore Ali Fenter, who as named to the Pac-10’s all-freshman team last fall, is back to anchor the defense.
Following is a look at the other collegiate women’s soccer programs in the area:
The Eagles (1-3) have lost three straight since opening the season with a 4-1 win over McNeese State, but longtime coach George Hageage still likes the makeup of this year’s team, which returns eight starters from 2008 when Eastern finished 4-11-3 overall and 2-4-1 in the Big Sky Conference.
“With so many freshmen last year, it took a little time for us to gel,” said Hageage, whose Eagles were picked to finish last in a preseason poll of BSC coaches and resume play tonight against Eastern Oregon in Camus, Ore. “And while I know we will rely on some freshmen again this year, we will also have a strong returning core of players.”
Eastern’s top returnees include sophomore defender Sara Byrne, who was a second-team all-BSC selection as a freshman, and junior forward Brittany Sparks and senior defender Chelsey Hannesson, who were both named to the all-league honorable mention list last fall.
The Bulldogs (3-1) are off to a nice start under first-year head coach Amy Edwards, but face their toughest road trip of the season this week when they travel to Los Angeles to take on USC on Friday and UCLA on Sunday.
Picked by league coaches to finish sixth in the this year’s West Coast Conference race, GU is hoping to make a much louder statement than that under Edwards, who has 10 players on her roster who made at least 13 starts in 2008 when the Zags finished 7-10-3 overall and 2-4-1 in the WCC.
“Many of our young players that gained a lot of experience last season will really contribute this season,” said Edwards, who boasts three returning all-WCC honorees – including first-team junior midfielder Sheridan Jones – on her roster. “Although some of them are only sophomores, a vast majority of them played a lot of minutes last year, which gives us a great amount of depth this season.
The Bulldogs’ other all-league returnees include sophomore forward Courtney Peacock, an honorable mention pick as a freshman, and senior midfielder Lori Conrad, who was also an honorable mention selection last fall.
The Vandals (3-2), have won three straight since opening the season with losses to Seattle and Utah Valley. They knocked off Idaho State and Montana in last weekend’s Governor’s Cup in Boise and hope to continue their roll back in Boise on Friday, when they face Northern Colorado in the opening round of the Holiday Inn Classic.
Coach Peter Showler has just six starters back from last year’s team, which finished 1-16-2 overall and 0-6-1 in the Western Athletic Conference. But he remains optimistic about 2009, despite having 13 new faces on his roster and being picked to finish eighth in the WAC in a preseason poll of league coaches.
“I’m not nervous at all – I’m excited,” Showler said. “It’s the first time that I’ve had the team be all girls who I’ve recruited, and that should be a measure of where this program starts to go.”
The Vandals will once again rely on a tough defense that is anchored by goalkeeper Liz Boyden, a sophomore from Ferris High School, who was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Week after making six saves and allowing only one goal in UI’s two Governor’s Cup matches last weekend.
The Pirates (2-0) open their home schedule at 2 p.m. on Friday against UC Santa Cruz in their own four-team Whitworth Soccer Classic. The Bucs lost six starters from last year’s 15-4-1 team, but coach Daman Hagerott still likes the players he has inherited in the first year of his second stint at Whitworth.
“We return a critical group of core players, while also getting what we expect to be a very good class of new talent,” said Hagerott, who has assisted at Whitworth in recent years.
The top returnee is junior forward Elizabeth Mattila, who led the Pirates in total points last season with five goals and seven assists. Senior midfielder Lindsey Oakes has been Hagerott’s most productive players in the early going with a goal and an assist.
The Sasquatch (1-1-1, 1-0 in the NWAACC) are coming off a 1-1 tie with North Idaho on Monday, and return to league play on Saturday with a 1 p.m. matchup against Green River at SFCC. Freshman Tabitha Grow, from Riverside High School, scored twice in CCS’s season-opening 6-0 win and figures to be a key component for ninth-year head coach Jim Martinson all season long in an effort to improve on last year’s 22-5 record, which included a 14-3 mark in the NWAACC.
The Cardinals (1-1-3) went 1-1-1 in their own Cardinal Classic tournament over the weekend and resume play on Friday at 1 p.m. when they travel to Rock Springs, Wyo., to take on Western Wyoming. Freshman Brittany Cook scored the only goal in Monday’s 1-1 tie with Community Colleges of Spokane and is expected to remain a centerpiece of NIC’s offense.