Women's soccer set to kick off 2012 season

By the Pac-12 Conference

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The 2012 season kicks off this weekend, with each Pac-12 team slated to play at least one game in the first weekend of action. Nine teams open their seasons on Friday, while three are set to debut on Sunday. Two Conference teams, Stanford (1) and UCLA (6) begin the season ranked in the top-10 in the NSCAA preseason coaches poll. The Pac-12 Networks, which launch Wednesday, Aug. 15, will televise 58 live women's soccer games this season, including more than 40 contests featuring 2011 NCAA Tournament participants.The schedule kicks off with defending NCAA Champion Stanford hosting perennial power Santa Clara in the Pac-12 Networks' first-ever live event production.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
(Times local to site)

Friday, August 17
ARIZONA at No. 18 Long Beach State, 7:00 p.m. PT
ARIZONA STATE at Cal State Northridge, 7:30 p.m. PT
CALIFORNIA at Pacific, 5:30 p.m. PT
COLORADO at Northern Colorado, 7:30 p.m. MT
           Colorado Cup, Greeley, Colo.
UAB at OREGON STATE, 7:00 p.m. PT
No. 17 Santa Clara at No. 1 STANFORD (Pac-12 Networks), 7:00 p.m. PT
No. 6 UCLA at Connecticut, 7:00 p.m. ET
USC at Cal State Fullerton, 7:00 p.m. PT
UTAH vs. Utah Sate, 7:00 p.m. MT
           Neutral site: Sandy, Utah
WASHINGTON at Seattle, 4:00 p.m. PT

Sunday, August 19
ARIZONA STATE at San Diego State, 1:00 p.m. PT
San Jose State at CALIFORNIA,  2:00 p.m. PT
COLORADO at Colorado College, 4:00 p.m. MT
Colorado Cup, Colorado Springs, Colo.
UAB at OREGON, 1:00 p.m. PT
No. 6 UCLA at Massachusetts, 1:00 p.m. ET
Gonzaga at WASHINGTON STATE, 3:00 p.m. PT

Monday, August 20
OREGON STATE at No. 18 Portland, 7:00 p.m. PT

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Arizona (0-0-0)
• Balanced attack: The Wildcats feature a good mix of youth and experience. With 11 upperclassmen on its roster, Arizona can expect plenty of leadership in 2012.
• Offense: Every player who registered a point for the Wildcats in 2011 returns to the pitch this fall. JuniorJazmin Ponce, who notched a team-high four points (2 goals) last season, is a player the Cats will rely on for offensive production in 2012.
• Defense: Goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman comes to Tucson with a year of Division I experience in the net which will benefit a team that faces a league full of powerful offenses.

Arizona State (0-0-0)
• Student-athletes: Arizona state returns three first-team 2011 Academic All-Pac-12 selections, the most of any team. A trio of juniors, Nicki Stone, Kaitlyn Pavlovich and Jasmine Roth, were first team selections. Seven returning Sun Devils received honorable mention.
• Midfield: Senior Taylor McCarter and junior Holland Crook bring a combined 89 starts to the ASU midfield. Senior Aissa Sanchez, who started five games for the Sun Devils in 2011, adds experience to a unit that will likely see contributions from a number of freshmen this season.
•  Defense: ASU will field a goalkeeper who hasn't played in a Pac-12 game. With the losses of Alyssa Gillmore and Vittoria Arnold, coach Kevin Boyd will look to transfer Liz Schulze and redshirt freshman Chandler Morris to fill the void in net.

California (0-0-0)
• Offense: Senior Lauren Battung provides veteran leadership along the Cal front line. She ranked second on the team in goals (7) and points (16) in 2011.
•  Midfield: Junior Kaitlyn Ftizpatrick received Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 honors in 2011, leading the Bears with seven assists and ranking third on the team with 13 points. She is joined by sophomore Taylor Comeau and junior Daughetee Genessee, who started 17 and 18 games last season, respectively.
• Defense: The Bears' defense will be strong as it returns 2011 second team All-Pac-12 performer and London Olympian Betsy Hassett and junior Emi Lawson, who has started 36 games in two seasons at Cal.

Colorado (0-0-0)
• New Coach: Danny Sanchez takes the reins after the departure of long-time skipper Bill Hempen. Sanchez won a pair of Division II national championships at Metro State before leading the University of Wyoming to its best record in school history last season. He boasts a 267-60-23 record as a head coach.
• Offense/Midfield: Colorado returns four multiple-goal scorers from 2011, including junior Anne Stuller whose four goals represented a team-high last season. Seniors Amy Barczuk and Shaye Marshall lead a young group of midfielders, including seven freshmen, in 2011.
• Defense: Sophomore Bianca Jones anchors a back line that returns four players that started games in 2011. Jones started 16 games as a freshman, while seniors Quinn Krier (11 starts) and Lauren Shaner(12 starts) and junior Lizzy Herzl (9 starts) opened games for the Buffaloes last season.  Junior Annie Brunner enters her third season as the Buffs' starting goalkeeper.

Oregon (0-0-0)
• Midfield/Offense: Senior Scout Libke returns to anchor the center midfield. Libke, who tied for the team-lead in goals (4), was a first team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011. Pac-12 All-Freshman team performer Bri Pugh pitched in four goals of her own last season for the Ducks.  
• Coaching: Tara Erickson is the school's all-time winningest coach as she enters her eighth year at the helm, boasting 62 victories during her time in Eugene.
• New digs: Oregon's  soccer and lacrosse teams have moved into a 15,000 ft. facility on campus that will not only serve as a playing surface but will house the teams' offices, locker room suites and a 900-seat gallery.

Oregon State (0-0-0)
• Early success: Linus Rhode enters his fifth year at OSU with the most wins by a Beavers head coach to start his career and three-consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament.
• Offense: An all-conference selection a season ago, redshirt senior Chelsea Buckland ranked third in the Pac-12 in goals (11) and game-winning goals (5) in 2011. She is joined by junior Jenna Richardson who netted eight goals in 19 starts for the Beavers last season.
• Midfield: Team captain Jacy Drobney leads a deep midfield in 2011. Sophomores Erin Uchacz and Brittney Olijar, junior Haley Shaw and seniors Megan Miller and Lindsay Meiggs were significant contributors in OSU's midfield last season.

Stanford (0-0-0)
• Offense: Redshirt junior Courtney Verloo, who missed last season with a knee injury, joins reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Chioma Ubogagu on a front line that figures to be among the best in the nation. Verloo, a former defensive standout, was on the Hermann Trophy watch list in 2011.
• All-Americans: Stanford returns a trio of NSCAA All-Americans, including junior goalkeeper Emily Oliver, who notched 12 shutouts in 2011 and led the nation in goals-against average (0.23). Senior Mariah Nogueira claimed NSCAA All-America honors as a freshman, while Courtney Verloo was a third-team selection as a sophomore in 2010.
• Coaching: Paul Ratcliffe won the NSCAA National Coach of the Year award for the third time in four years after leading Stanford to a 25-0-1 record and its first national championship in 2011. He is the first Division I coach to win the award three times in a four-year span. Ratcliffe was also named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the fourth-consecutive season. With 158 wins, he is the Cardinal's winningest coach.

UCLA (0-0-0)
• Returning starters: The Bruins return 10 starters from a squad that lost just one match in 2011, including sophomore defender Abby Dahlkemper, an NSCAA All-American as a freshman, and senior midfielder Zakiya Bywaters, who garnered All-Pac-12 honors last season.
• Fabulous as freshmen: Bruins dominated the 2011 Pac-12 All-Freshmen team, claiming four of 11 seats. Dahlkemper, midfielders Samantha Mewis and Caprice Dydasco and goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland represented UCLA on the team.
• Midfield: UCLA returns four starting midfielders, each of which earned All-Pac-12 designations in 2011.  

USC (0-0-0)
• Reinforcements: After losing five seniors from last year's team, including the Pac-12's second-most productive distributor, the Trojans reloaded in a big way— by welcoming 21 fresh faces in 2012.  Several newcomers figure to contribute this year, including freshman forward Whitney Pitalo who notched a goal and an assist in her preseason debut against Cal Poly.
• Experience across the board: The Trojans look to a number of experienced upperclassmen for leadership this season, notably, seniors Samantha Johnson and Kristina Noriega and juniors Elizabeth Eddy and Autumn Altamirano. Johnson is a three-year starter at forward and Eddy led the Trojans in scoring as a sophomore in 2011.
• Depth in net: With four goalkeepers on the roster, including sophomore Carley Pennington who started the final six games of the 2011 season, the Women of Troy have plenty of depth in the net.

Utah (0-0-0)
• Young talent: Utah returns eight sophomore letterwinners, five of whom started for the Utes last season.  With the departure of four key seniors, more young talent figures to be in the mix this season.
• Offense: Juniors Harley Spier and Ally Wisner and sophomore forward Katie Taylor are the veterans on a young front line. Spier, Taylor and Wisner were regular starters last season and add experience at the top. Redshirt junior Monica Okapal returns to the pitch after missing the 2011 season and most of the 2010 season with injuries.
• Defense: Utah returns four starters on the back line, including a trio of sophomores. Avery Ford, a Pac-12 All-Freshmen team selection in 2011, started all 20 games for the Utes and showed a propensity for generating offense. Sophomores Sarah Duncan and Abby Groth, along with junior Jenny Hutton, also return.

Washington (0-0-0)
• Fifth-Year Senior leadership: A pair of redshirt seniors, and roommates, will captain the Huskies in 2012. Kari Davidson started in goal for the Huskies in 2008 and 2009 before a knee-injury sidelined her after three matches in 2010. She played in a reserve role in 2011. Midfielder Faustine Dufka, who owes her fifth year to injuries suffered in both the 2009 and 2011 seasons, has seen action in 26 games. The duo says their focus will be on "unity" and "teamwork" this season.
• High Expectations: The Huskies landed two heralded prospects in this year's recruiting class, midfielder Isabel Farrell and defender McKenzie Karas, both of whom will compete for playing time at their respective positions this season. On a team that returns just three seniors, they may be be early contributors.
• Three-horse race: Three goalkeepers are vying for the starting job in 2012. Captain Kari Davidson has two years of starting experience, and redshirt freshman Megan Kufeld has spent a year in the program. Freshman Tori Burns also figures to be in the mix.

Washington State (0-0-0)
• Coaching: First-year head coach Keidane MacAlpine looks to build off WSU's recent postseason success. The Cougars have advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in two of the past three seasons.
• Foundation: Washington State carried 16 underclassmen on it's 23-woman roster in 2011. The roster is still underclassmen-heavy, but with a season under their belts, many are ready to shoulder the load. Forward Jocelyn Jeffers led Washington State with seven goals and 19 points as a freshman last year.
• Golden goalie: Redshirt sophomore Gurveen Clair ranked second in the Pac-12 in save percentage in 2011 and is one of two returning goalkeepers that ranked in the top-four in the Conference in every major statistical category last season.

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