2002 Women's Soccer Outlook
Aug. 13, 2002
BERKELEY - California head coach Kevin Boyd has a lot to smile about heading into the 2002 season.
He has every reason to be optimistic entering his sixth year in Berkeley as the winningest women's soccer coach in the program's history at 66-32-5. The Golden Bears are coming off a 12-7-2 season, which saw them advance to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Cal also was one of only two teams to defeat Santa Clara, the 2001 national champion.
The Bears return eight starters and 16 letterwinners from last season and bring in several newcomers with immediate impact potential. This year's squad is loaded with leadership with seven seniors and nine juniors.
'In terms of depth of talent, we look very good,' said Boyd, whose 2002 recruiting class is ranked No. 11 by Soccer Buzz. 'We have an outstanding returning squad. We have a couple of key individuals, who have been performing well and earning accolades for themselves. We have an exciting freshmen class. Looking at the group as a whole, we have the potential to be very successful this year.'
The two players garnering most of the honors are senior forward Laura Schott and junior midfielder Kim Yokers, who both have experience playing on the U.S. under-21 national team. Schott also was a finalist last year for college soccer's top two national player of the year honors - the Hermann and the Missouri Athletic Club awards.
With the personnel Cal has this season, it may advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988. Boyd knows the luck of the postseason draw has been a factor the last three seasons but feels this year's team is better prepared to control its own destiny.
'We need to focus on ourselves and get ready,' said Boyd. 'And, when we get that chance, we need to make the most of it, and we need to be a better team.'
Schott is on track to break U.S. national team star Joy (Biefeld) Fawcett's Cal career points (133) and goals (55) records this season. She currently has 110 points and 49 goals after leading the Pac-10 in both categories the last two seasons, including 33 points (15G, 3A) as a junior.
The question is who will be Schott's running mates this season with the graduation of Kyla Sabo.
Senior Krysti Whalen has been one of the top strikers off the bench for the Bears but may assume a starter's role this year. Sophomore Kacy Hornor also is a strong possibility as she finished fourth on the team in 2001 with 12 points (4G, 4A).
But don't discount a trio of freshmen -- Jamie Mangiardi, Elizabeth Eisenberg and Dania Cabello. Mangiardi is Cal's most decorated newcomer with Parade All-American and U.S. under-18 national team honors to her credit. Eisenberg and Cabello both played for Boyd on the Marin Rockers, which won the 2002 Cal-North state championship.
Cal's midfield is arguably its strongest unit as it returns all three of its central midfielders from a year ago.
Senior Brittany Kirk came to Berkeley as an unheralded player but will leave with her name planted in the school's record books. She is tied for fourth all-time in Cal history with 17 assists.
Yokers emerged as one of the top playmakers in the country in 2001 and competed for the United States over the summer at the Nordic Cup in Finland. She tied for fourth at Cal a year ago with 12 points and earned second team All-Pac-10 and third team All-West region honors.
Junior Ashley Valenzuela, a physical presence, has started the last two seasons as a holding midfielder but may move to the backline this year.
Senior Carly Fuller, an All-ACC transfer from Duke, also is a candidate to start at the holding midfield position.
Junior Kassie Doubrava is capable of playing anywhere on the field for Cal. However, she may see most of her time on the Bears' flanks this year. In 2001, she tied for second on the team for both points (15) and goals (5).
Senior Kim Stocklmeir and redshirt junior Lucy Brining anchor an experienced Bears' backline. Stocklmeir excels at coming forward on the attack, as she tied for the team lead with seven assists in 2001. Brining is Cal's top overall defender.
After starting at sweeper last season, junior Kathleen Cain may redshirt 2002 due to ongoing shin problems.
Cal's defense has traditionally been among the conference's and the nation's best, but Boyd feels there's room for improvement from 2001.
'I would like to see our defense tighten up a little,' said Boyd. 'Last year, our team defense wasn't as strong as it should have been. Scoring will take care of itself, so my focus will be on defense this year.'
The goalkeeper spot is up for grabs heading into the fall camp. Redshirt junior Sani Post and redshirt freshman Ashley Sulprizio, who transferred from Notre Dame and Nebraska, respectively, are the top contenders for the starting job. Another transfer, sophomore Katy Castaneda from UC Davis, is another prospect.
Senior Lee Ann Morton, a converted field player, is the only current athlete who has seen minutes in goal for the Bears. As a freshman, Morton preserved a victory over Tennessee and earned the starting nod against Duke when the regular keepers were unavailable.
If everyone performs to their capabilities, the Bears may have a lot to smile about deep into the NCAA Tournament.