Back in Full Force: 2007 Stanford Women's Soccer Outlook

Aug. 15, 2007

Stanford, Calif. - The Stanford women's soccer team is coming off of one of its most promising campaigns ever, a season highlighted by a Sweet Sixteen appearance, 15 wins, 10 conference awards, 13 conference academic awards, 15 shutouts, 37 goals, a top-10 ranking and another top-three finish in the competitive Pac-10. The team made its ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament and recorded its 19th consecutive winning season.

And 2007 looks to be even better.

The only thing more impressive than the list of last year's accomplishments, is the data on the young team that accomplished it. Three of the team's five leading scorers were freshmen. The back line that shutout 15 opponents, held 17 to two shots on goal or less and boasted a .55 goals-against average is back in full force. Goalkeeper Erica Holland, who finished the season with the best save percentage and goals-against average in the Pac-10, will be back in the cage. The Cardinal returns its entire starting line-up, 20 of its 21 letterwinners, 100 percent of its scoring, both of its goalkeepers and 11 players with National Team experience. Moreover, 99.7 percent of the minutes spent on the field were by players coming back for 2007.

The team couldn't be in a better position to pick up where it left off.

Head Coach Paul Ratcliffe, who enters his fifth season at the helm of the Cardinal, is confident that his squad has the potential to contend with the best teams in the nation in 2007.

'This year's team has the talent and experience to have a very successful season,' said Ratcliffe. 'Our goal is to win the Pac-10 title and compete for the National Championship.'

Once again, Ratcliffe has challenged his team with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, hoping to prepare his team for another run through the postseason. Stanford will face 11 teams that competed in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, and six teams that finished the season ranked in the NSCAA top-25. Four teams on the Cardinal agenda are fellow Sweet Sixteen participants and two are coming off of appearances in the 2006 College Cup.

The Cardinal kicks off 2007 action on the road, heading to Boston to compete in a tournament hosted by Boston University, Aug. 31-Sept. 2. The team will face the host Terriers in the season-opener, before meeting the Connecticut Huskies in the second day of the event.

The Cardinal returns to the Bay Area to compete in the Santa Clara/adidas Classic, Sept. 7-9. In the first day of action, the Cardinal will meet fellow Sweet 16 participant Virginia. On the second day, the team will meet 2006 NCAA runner-up Notre Dame, a team that finished last season ranked No. 1 in the NSCAA poll.Stanford hosts a tournament of its own, Sept. 14-16, where the squad will square off with Missouri and No. 13 Rutgers. The following weekend, the Cardinal takes on No. 12 Colorado and Denver in a tournament hosted by the Buffaloes in Boulder.

The Cardinal will play three more non-conference matches at Maloney before beginning the Pac-10 season. On Sept. 28, Stanford meets the Dons of San Francisco, and two days later, on Sept. 30, the team will face the Gaels of Saint Mary's. The following week, Stanford will battle local rival Santa Clara on its home field.

The Cardinal begins the Pac-10 season on Oct. 12, battling California at Maloney Field. The Pac-10 will again provide a challenging agenda, as four conference teams, including the Cardinal, return from NCAA Tournament appearances.

Stanford's conference schedule is highlighted by meetings with the other Pac-10 powerhouses. The Cardinal plays defending conference champion UCLA on the Farm on Oct. 19 and USC at home on Oct. 21. The squad meets Oregon, last year's Pac-10 runner-up, on Nov. 9 in Eugene.

Here is a look at the 2007 Cardinal by position:

Goalkeepers

Stanford returns two experienced goalkeepers to the roster in 2007 - senior Erica Holland and junior Alex Gamble - and adds Kira Maker, one of the top prep goalkeepers in the nation.

Gamble and Holland split time in the net in 2006 and proved their ability to compete at the highest level. Holland earned the starting job mid-season last year and stepped up during the most critical time of the year. She posted an 8-1-1 record over the last 10 games and carried the Cardinal on its run through the postseason. She was responsible for seven shutouts, including two in the NCAA Tournament, and allowed opponents just two goals during that time. In her final season on the Farm, Holland will look to build on her success and continue to play an instrumental role in the Stanford defensive effort.

Gamble has started 28 games in her first two years of collegiate action and racked up 12 shutouts. Having faced some of the top competition in the nation, the Temecula, Calif. native has the experience necessary to be a successful part of Stanford's 2007 line-up.

Maker, who hails from Wootton High School in Potomac, Md., will also compete for time in goal for the Cardinal. A U-17 pool player, she is considered one of the nation's top recruits.

Defenders

The Stanford back line is anchored by Rachel Buehler, a U.S. Senior National Team pool player who has captained the team for the last two seasons. One of two fifth year seniors on the Stanford squad, Buehler will continue to bring key experience and leadership to the team.

'Rachel Buehler is one of the best defenders in the country and will be our leader in the back,' said Ratcliffe. 'The entire back line should be very strong and I expect them to be one of the best in the nation again in 2007.'

Buehler is far from the only experienced player on the Stanford defense, however. As a matter of fact, the core foursome has started a combined 189 games in a Cardinal uniform. Buehler, senior April Wall, junior Marisa Abegg and junior Allison Falk make up a defensive force that comes back stronger than ever. One of the most successful units in the nation last season, the entire back line earned All-Pac-10 recognition in 2006, after holding 15 opponents scoreless and keeping 17 of them to two shots on goal or less. Abegg, one of last year's team co-captains, has spent much of the off-season training with the U-21 National Team. She and Falk have started every game of their careers, while Wall has three years of collegiate experience under her belt. Having shutdown some of the top offensive players in the nation, the Stanford defense will look to take advantage of its cohesiveness and experience.

Two more players, sophomore Katie Riley and senior Mimi Yuhas, further strengthen the Cardinal back line. Riley earned 12 starts in her rookie campaign, and Yuhas, who will also see time in the midfield, brings a strong work ethic and the ability to step in for the Cardinal at key times.

Midfielders

The Stanford midfield returns in 2007 with even more experience than expected. Senior Shari Summers, the rock of Stanford's midfield and the team's second-leading scorer, was awarded a fifth year of eligibility and will return to the Farm for another collegiate season. One of the squad's primary leaders, Summers scored seven goals for the Cardinal in 2006, five of which were game-winners. Both her scoring experience and ability to direct the Cardinal offense will be a key asset for the team this season.

Stanford's midfield is chock full of experience, however. Sophomore Kristin Stannard was a Pac-10 Second Team selection as a rookie last year and one of Stanford's leading scorers with four goals and two assists. Junior Lea MacKinnon, a versatile midfielder and forward, was second in the conference last season with a team-leading seven assists. Senior Lizzy George, who also will see time as a forward, has the most scoring experience on the team, with 27 career points. Hillary Heath, notched 12 points primarily as a forward last season and will likely move to the midfield this year. Returners Kelley Birch and Lauren Shapiro and will also see time in the midfield for the Cardinal, as will a pair of talented newcomers, Morgan Redman and Allison McCann.

'The Stanford midfield will be very skillful and creative this year,' said Ratcliffe 'I expect many goals to be scored and created by our midfielders.'

Forwards

Stanford's offense is highlighted by sophomore Kelley O'Hara, a member of the 2007 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, who proved to be one of the most talented freshmen in the country last season. A National Freshman of the Year finalist and a First Team All-Pac-10 selection, O'Hara led Stanford in scoring with nine goals, two assists and 20 points and was the fourth-leading scorer in the Pac-10. Invited to train with the full U.S. Women's National Team last spring, O'Hara has gained valuable experience competing with the best players in the nation in the off-season. She was selected to the U.S. roster for the Pan Am Games in Brazil in July and returns to the Farm ready to pick up where she left off.

Another rising sophomore, Ali Riley, also was one of the most successful offensive players on the roster last season. She notched four goals and two assists, and stepped up for Stanford with three points in the NCAA Tournament. A member of the New Zealand Women's National Team, Riley will play in the 2007 Women's World Cup in September and return with the highest level of international experience. Sophomore Alicia Jenkins was a Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selection last year, played all three field positions and was one of just four players to start every game for the Cardinal last season.

The front line also includes juniors Kate Mannino and Austinn Freeman as well as newcomer Christen Press, who is considered one of the top-50 recruits in the nation.

'The front line will be very dynamic and potent,' said Ratcliffe. 'Our forward line will be very fast and capable of scoring many goals in 2007.'

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