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1 thing to know about each Pac-12 women's soccer team heading into conference play

Sep 22, 2022
Photo of Shyra James via CU Athletics

After posting a .745 winning percentage during the non-conference slate, the Pac-12 begins league play Friday with all 12 teams in action.

Here's one thing to know about each squad.

Arizona (3-2-2) — The Wildcats are a second-half team

The Wildcats have scored the fewest goals in the Pac-12 (7) but enter conference play with a respectable record that includes some quality results, like a win at Texas Tech and draw at Nebraska.

They defend well, have one of the most experienced goalkeepers in the Pac-12 in Hope Hisey, and play to the final whistle. Six of Arizona's seven goals have come in the second half.

A good example of their resiliency came against UAB when Arizona netted a pair of second-half goals to earn a 2-2 draw.

Arizona State (4-0-2) — Nicole Douglas is already the best scorer in Sun Devil history

The nation's leading scorer a year ago, Nicole Douglas hasn't slowed down this season, tallying nine goals so far, tied for the fourth-most in the country and only behind Colorado's Shyra James in the Pac-12. (We'll get to her in a second.)

Douglas scored twice against UAB on Sept. 1 — the 50th and 51st goals of her career — to break ASU's all-time record. 

She's undoubtedly the face of the program, but the Sun Devils aren't a one-trick pony, either. Eight other ASU players have scored this season and Lucy Johnson (5) and Enasia Colon (4) rank second and tied for third in the Pac-12, respectively, in assists.

At 31 in RPI, the Sun Devils' NCAA Tournament hopes are in good shape. 

California (5-1-3) — The Bears don't break

The Golden Bears have only allowed four goals all season and have posted four straight shutouts entering Pac-12 play, going 3-0-1 during that stretch, including a big win over Bay Area rival Santa Clara. 

Star center back Sydney Collins has played every minute of every match and is arguably the best defender in the conference, taking home back-to-back Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week awards — the only player to earn the honor twice this season.

Senior goalkeeper Angelina Anderson has been a steadying force for the Bears for years and has continued her solid play this season, ranking third in the conference in save percentage (.818).

Colorado (6-1-2) — The Buffs are one of the highest scoring teams in the country

The Buffaloes have notched a Pac-12 best 31 goals this season, ranking fourth in the entire country. They have scored five or more goals in four of their nine games.

Shyra James' 10 goals lead the Pac-12 and are tied for the second-most in the country. (James and Douglas are No. 1 and 2 in scoring among major-conference players.)

James is remarkably consistent, scoring at least one goal in eight of Colorado's nine matches this season and 12 of their last 13 dating back to last season.

Stanford transfer Civana Kuhlmann has been a fantastic complement to James, scoring six goals so far. 

Oregon (2-2-4) — You're going to see a lot of Leah Freeman

The Ducks have surrendered the most shots in the Pac-12 (132), which means Leah Freeman has had ample opportunity to showcase why she was an all-conference goalkeeper last season.. She's been up to the challenge so far, making 50 saves this season, 19 more than the next Pac-12 goalie.

Thanks to some of those timely stops, the Ducks only dropped two games in non-conference play despite a bevy of injuries to their field players.

Oregon State (4-2-2) — It's the McKenna Martinez show

There's no hiding it: the Beavers go as McKenna Martinez goes. The sophomore has scored six of OSU's 11 goals this season. No other Beaver has scored more than one. 

This is nothing new, either, as Martinez totaled 12 goals as a freshman last season.

If she continues this pace, she has a real chance to become OSU's all-time leading scorer, a title currently held by Jodie Taylor, who scored 47 goals from 2004 to 2007.

No. 19 Stanford (7-1-1) — Freshman Lumi Kostmayer leads a lethal attack

The Cardinal always has talented attackers but some new faces have emerged this season, starting with freshman Lumi Kostmayer, whose seven goals are tied for third-most in the Pac-12. 

Kostmayer posted her first career hat trick against San Diego last week, her second multi-goal game of the season. She is one of four Cardinal players with a multi-goal game this season. Another freshman — Allie Montoya — is another.

In all, thirteen different Cardinal players have scored at least one goal and Stanford has netted 29 goals as a team, the second-most in the Pac-12.

Its attack might be even better than those numbers indicate as Stanford also ranks No. 1 in the country in shots on goal per game (11.89).

No. 1 UCLA (8-0) — The Bruins are the best team in the country

And it's not up for debate.

UCLA is No. 1 in the United Soccer Coaches poll, TopDrawerSoccer's Top 25 and the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

The Bruins have a 23-3 goal differential and wins over Duke and North Carolina, who were the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country when UCLA beat them on their home fields earlier this month.

The two-time defending Pac-12 champs haven't missed a beat under first-year head coach Margueritte Aozasa.

USC (4-1-1) — The Trojans are finding their groove

The Pac-12's top scoring team a season ago, USC got off to a slow start under first-year head coach Jane Alukonis, falling 3-0 at Purdue in its season opener.

Since then, the Trojans are 4-0-1. A dominant 3-0 home win over No. 12 TCU shows how potent they can be when they are firing at all cylinders.

Croix Bethune scored twice that game, and look for her to have a big second half of the season. The 2021 Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year had 16 goals last year but only has two so far this year.

Utah (4-2-2) — The Utes are out to show their improvement

The Utes only won one Pac-12 game in head coach Hideki Nakada's first season, but four of their seven losses were decided by one goal, suggesting they were more competitive than their record indicated.

It bodes well, then, that their attack has been much improved this year. Utah is averaging 1.5 goals per game (up from 0.95) thanks in part to a team-high four goals from Taliana Kaufusi.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State transfer Evie Vitali has helped solidify the backline, ranking third in the Pac-12 in saves so far.

No. 15 Washington (6-0-2) — The Huskies pair an elite defense with a promising attack

The Huskies and Bruins are one of just three Division I teams that have allowed three or fewer goals this season. UW has five shutouts in eight matches and has not conceded more than one goal in a game all season. 

The backline has been so good that goalkeeper Olivia Sekany has only been forced to make seven saves in eight starts.

The Husky offense has plenty of firepower too, netting 23 goals in non-conference play, tied with UCLA for the third-most in the Pac-12.

Washington does a lot of its damage on corner kicks, currently tied with Cal for the most in the Pac-12 (57). Summer Yates, one of the best players in the conference over the past five seasons, has been serving up beautiful balls all season, leading UW with six assists.

Kyla Ferry, Karla Stuckle, and Hailey Still have often been on the receiving end, each leading the Huskies with four goals apiece.

UW's No. 15 ranking ties their highest place in the polls since 2004.

Washington State (6-1-1) — The Cougs are red-hot entering conference play

Since opening the season 0-1-1, the Cougars have won six straight matches, outscoring opponents 20-6 over that stretch.

Ten different Cougs have scored this season, but Margie Detrizio is the player to watch. The junior is enjoying a breakout season so far, leading WSU with seven goals, already three more than the career high she set last season.

At 38 in RPI, WSU looks poised to return to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in seven years.