2010 Pac-10 Women's Soccer Season Preview
Pac-10 women's soccer is coming off a record-setting season in 2009, seeing a record eight teams earn NCAA Tournament bids and for the third-straight season, two Pac-10 squads played in the NCAA Women's College Cup. However, the Pac-10 has only had one women's soccer national championship, won by the USC Trojans in 2007. It is time that the Pac-10 won another women's soccer title. Could 2010 be the year? The Conference looks as deep as ever, having four teams ranked in the NSCAA preseason poll, with 2009 national runner-up Stanford and UCLA leading the charge.
Despite losing leading scorer Kelley O'Hara, who had an incredible season in 2009, leading the Cardinal to a fairy tale undefeated season up until the NCAA College Cup Final, Stanford looks just as poised as ever to make a run at the title in 2010. The Cardinal were ranked second in the NSCAA preseason poll and were picked to finish first in the Conference by a vote of the league's coaches. Stanford returns eight starters from last season, including four All-Americans, and have a strong six-member freshman class. Leading the offensive charge for the Cardinal is expected to be senior forward Christen Press, who was second on the squad last season with 21 goals and set a Stanford single-season record with 16 assists.
UCLA looks to be a squad on a mission in 2010, after losing to Stanford in the College Cup semifinals and dropping its first Pac-10 match since 2006 in league play to the Cardinal, the Bruins come into this season with a chip on their shoulder. The Bruins have made seven-straight NCAA College Cups and it is just a matter of time before they make it over the hump. Despite losing U.S. National Team forward Lauren Cheney, who re-wrote the Bruin record books, UCLA will return plenty of experienced players and have the offensive power of Sydney Leroux, who is only a junior and netted an impressive 23 goals last season, second-most in the Conference. And incredibly, because of all the offensive threats in the Pac-10 last season, was only Second Team All-Pac-10. 2010 could be her time to take the spotlight and take the Bruins to the top.
The depth of the Pac-10 is most evident in the preseason coaches' poll, with only eight points separating USC, California and Oregon State. The Trojans, just two seasons removed from their run to the national title in 2007, bring a balanced attack, headed by senior forward Alyssa Davila, last season's leading scorer. Combined with three other returners from the 2007 title team, the Trojans are looking to get back on top in 2010. California, who was picked to finish fourth in the Conference, is the third-highest ranked team in the NSCAA preseason poll at No. 14. The Bears' are led by U.S. National Team player Alex Morgan, who is another offensive star in the Conference, as she tallied 14 goals in 2009, setting a Cal single-season record. Oregon State, picked at No. 5 in the coaches' poll, is coming off a Cinderella season when they made a run to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, the deepest a Beaver team has gone in the Tournament. The Beavers also received votes in the national poll and with seven starters returning from last season, it seems quite likely that Oregon State will continue to turn heads this season.
Washington State was ranked No. 21 in the preseason national poll and head coach Matt Potter has quickly turned the Cougars into one of the best teams in the Pacific Northwest and, as evidenced by their third-place finish in the league last year, also one of the best in the Pac-10. The Cougars lost key senior talent, including leading goal scorer Kiersten Dallstream, but have plenty of young talent in Mariah Cameron, Brandi Vega and Mel Johnston. The Cougars staunch defense allowed only 0.84 goals per game in 2010, second best in the Conference. A large part of this defensive prowess was of Second Team All-Pac-10 goalkeeper Meghan Berlingo. Washington State appears again be a formidable team in 2010. In-state rival Washington returns leading scorer McKenna Waitley, who had a breakout season in 2009, and is set to join the Conference's offensive powerhouse players in 2010. The Huskies boasted a much improved defense in 2009 and that will continue to be a strength this season.
Arizona State continues the depth of the Conference, as they are coming off their first NCAA appearance since 2003. The Sun Devils boast a balanced attack and bring back leading scorer senior midfielder Alexandra Elston for 2010. Oregon returns a large contingent in 2010, with eight starters returning and that consistency will help the Ducks. The Ducks are led by senior forward Jen Stoltenberg, who netted 10 goals in 2009 and is another offensive threat in the Pac-10. Arizona is entering a new era with head coach Lisa Oyen and their future looks bright. Junior forward Renae Cullar, the Wildcats' leading scorer in 2009, enters the new season with international playing experience, as she just finished play for Mexico in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Freshman midfielder Ana Montoya is also coming off action with the Colombian National Team at the U-2O World Cup and should be able to come in and make an impact for the Wildcats right away.
The Conference boasts seven players who have been named to the watch list for the prestigious M.A.C. Hermann Award, given to the top collegiate women's soccer player in the country each season. This is the second most selections of any conference. Stanford and UCLA each had three selections and California had one. The Pac-10 looks to be one of the strongest conferences in women's soccer again in 2010 and with depth through all 10 teams, excellent offensive players and strength in every position, the Conference will make a splash on the national scene and looks poised to make a run at the national title, once again.