2003 Cal Women's Soccer Outlook
July 3, 2003
BERKELEY - With five straight NCAA Tournament appearances under its belt, the California women's soccer team looks to be among the national championship contenders in 2003.
The Golden Bears posted a 12-8-1 overall record in 2002, winning 11 or more matches for the seventh straight season. A 2-0 shutout of No. 19 Denver in the opening round of the 2002 NCAA College Cup was the Bears' first postseason victory since 1988.
'Earning the playoff win got a huge monkey off of our backs,' said Cal coach Kevin Boyd, who enters his seventh season as the winningest coach (78-40-6) in terms of victories in the program's 21-year history. 'We really needed to win a postseason game to remind everyone that we could do it.'
After proving they can triumph in the postseason, the Bears have their sights set on playing deep into this year's NCAA Tournament. Cal has every reason to be optimistic that its dream can become a reality with 18 letterwinners, including eight starters (six of whom are seniors), returning from last year's squad.
'The biggest asset we'll have this season is that we'll have nine seniors, six who will be fourth-year players and three who will be in their fifth year,' said Boyd. 'When we've had a strong leadership core, we've had very good teams. This year's squad has a chance to do very well. They'll hold themselves to a high standard.'
Leading the list of returners is senior central midfielder Kimberly Yokers, a 2002 first team All-Pac-10 and second team All-West Region selection. Yokers has spent the last two years travelling with the U.S. under-21 national team.
Cal faces its first campaign in the last five years without two-time All-American Laura Schott, who set the school career goal record at 56 last season, and now plays for the WUSA Washington Freedom.
'Laura changed our program,' said Boyd. 'There's no question about it. She elevated our program to a different level at a time when we needed it. We are ready to continue in the direction she set forth for us.'
The Bears, who have competed in three NCAA final fours in school history, hope their talented and veteran roster will be able to direct the program to the 2003 NCAA College Cup championship game Dec. 5 in Carey, N.C.
Sophomore sensations Tracy Hamm and Dania Cabello are slated to lead Cal's offense. The duo finished first (19) and third (17), respectively, on the team in points last season. Hamm paced the Bears with nine goals, while Cabello held top honors in assists with seven.
'Tracy and Dania are two players with a lot of experience,' said Boyd. 'They're two sophomores who played every game and kept us afloat when Laura (Schott) was hurt last year.'Providing a scoring punch from last year's returners are senior Kassie Doubrava, who led Cal in scoring during the spring with eight goals, and sophomore Liz Eisenberg. Doubrava posted seven points from two goals and three assists in 2002. Eisenberg was slowed last year by a knee injury, playing in only eight contests, but did showcase her speed in spurts.Minutes will be tough to earn with Hamm and Cabello in the lineup, but several freshmen could find their way into the rotation, including Briana Wiles, Katie Ratican and Alivia Mazura.
Despite the loss of two of last year's starting midfielders, All-Pac-10 selections Brittany Kirk and Carly Fuller, Boyd is excited about his midfield. Kimberly Yokers' point production is expected to increase from last year's six points (one goal, four assists) since she has improved on her scoring and passing effectiveness in the final third of the field. Senior Ashley Valenzuela is being moved from the backline to the defensive midfield position, where she played her first two seasons in Berkeley. Doubrava, who started 15 of the 21 games she played in last year, is likely to see time in the midfield, as well.
'Yokers is one of the top attacking midfielders in the nation,' said Boyd. 'Who she is, the experience she brings, the leadership she provides and the example she shows, there isn't a better person on the team for everyone to try to emulate.'The Bears' depth is arguably their best in the midfield. Senior Cami Boswell has endured a variety of injuries during her career but is on track to contribute during her final campaign.
Sophomores Jamie Mangiardi, Sierra Schlessinger and Lindsay Clute will be looked to for big contributions this season. Mangiardi, a 2002 Parade All-American, and Schlessinger saw significant action as freshmen.
The incoming freshmen are a talented group and will vie for playing time. Those to watch include Beth Dearaujo, Emily Ward and Briana Wiles. Jennifer Wendell will redshirt the 2003 season to rehabilitate an ACL tear.
Cal will likely start three seniors on its backline - Lucy Brining, Kim Stocklmeir and Amy Willison - all of whom excel at coming forward with the ball. Depending on how many athletes the Bears suit up on defense, freshman Nadia Al-Lami could also earn a starting role.
Brining is the team's best overall defender and is known for neutralizing some of the best forwards in the nation. After suffering a broken collarbone during the 2002 season opener, Stocklmeir joins Brining as two of the team's fifth-year seniors. In 2001, Stocklmeir tied for the team lead with seven assists.
Willison started at defender last season after coming off the bench at the forward position as a freshman and sophomore. Al-Lami starred in the 2003 McDonald's High School All-America game and has spent several years in the U.S. youth national team system.Adding depth to Cal's backline include junior Alea Kerch, sophomore Karissa Goodwin and freshmen Beth Dearaujo, Emily Ward and Laura Albrecht. Senior Kathleen Cain would see significant minutes, but due to ongoing shin injuries, she will help the team as an undergraduate assistant in 2003.
The goalkeeper position should be stronger this season after being solid but not as dominant in 2002 as in previous years. Cal welcomes back fifth-year senior Sani Post and redshirt sophomore Ashley Sulprizio, and add Anna Key, a U.S. under-19 national team player. The trio will challenge each other for the starting job.
A first team Academic All-Pac-10 choice, Post held the starting reins in 14 games last season and posted a 0.94 goals-against average, while Sulprizio recorded a 1.38 GAA in her seven starts.
Key, a product of Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School, earned a spot in the 2003 McDonald's High School All-America game.