UC Irvine Looks To Match Best Start Since 1998
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Women's Soccer Weekly Release No. 3
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This Week in the Big West - August 29-September 1, 2011
UC Irvine, ranked No. 16 nationally by Soccer America, is unbeaten at 4-0-0 with designs on opening a season with five straight wins for the first time since 1998. The Anteaters get their chance on Friday when future Big West member Hawai'i visits Anteater Stadium.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Nadia Link, Long Beach State
Link has amassed at least one point in three consecutive matches and sits in a tie atop the Big West in points (2g, 2a) with six. The junior forward netted two of Long Beach State’s three goals on last weekend’s trip to the midwest against Milwaukee and Marquette, and was named to the Milwaukee Cup All-Tournament Team. Link is tied for fifth among active Big West players with 10 career goals.
Coaches Tab UC Irvine As Favorite To Win 2011 Title
The nine head coaches selected UC Irvine to win the 2011 Big West women’s soccer title in their annual preseason poll. The Anteaters collected seven of the nine first-place votes with Pacific and Cal Poly receiving one first-place vote apiece. UC Irvine garnered 78 total points followed by Long Beach State with 70. The coaches predicted a logjam in the middle of the pack as only eight points separated third through sixth place. Cal State Northridge was picked to finish third with 52 points, while Pacific was fourth with 51 points. UC Santa Barbara finished with 48 points for fifth place and Cal Poly was sixth with 44 points. Cal State Fullerton (34 points), UC Davis (18) and UC Riverside (10) rounded out the poll, respectively. UC Irvine returns seven starters from the 2010 squad that finished 19-3-2 overall and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Returning All-League Talent Dots Big West Rosters
A total of seven players who earned All-Big West First Team acclaim in 2010 are slated to return to the pitch for at least another season. UC Irvine leads all Big West teams with three returning first-teamers while Long Beach State welcomes back two. In addition to the aforementioned Goodson, senior Judy Christopher and junior Mar Rodriguez return for the blue and gold. Christopher captured her second straight All-Big West First Team citation in 2010. Rodriguez posted six goals and three assists for the high-octane UCI offense to garner her initial first team nod. The 49ers welcome back junior Nadia Link (8g, 1a, 17 pts), who tied for third in the Big West in goals, and senior Shawna Gordon (4g, 7a, 15 pts), a two-time first team all-league choice who tied for second in assists. A pair of first team all-league defenders are also reappearing in seniors Brielle Slepicoff of Cal State Northridge and Aisha Lott of UC Davis.
UC Irvine Improves To 4-0, Moves Up In Poll
UC Irvine defeated San Jose State and Mississippi State last week to vault to remain unbeaten at 4-0-0 and moved up to No. 16 nationally in the Soccer America poll this week. The two wins at the UC Riverside Invitational, both played in 100 degree heat, gave the Anteaters the distinction of being the Big West’s only remaining undefeated team. The last UCI team to begin a season 4-0 was the 1998 edition, which started out with five straight victories.
Highlanders Emerge From Hibernation
To say UC Riverside struggled offensively in 2010 would be an understatement. The Highlanders scored all of three goals during the entire season. However, the 2011 squad seems poised to wipe out those memories. In fact, UCR blanked Mississippi State, 3-0, on Friday to produce in one game what it accounted for all last season. The team also has doubled its 2010 scoring output in just four matches. The three goals against Mississippi State marked the first time since October 26, 2008 that the Highlanders scored that many goals in a match. On that day, UCR toppled Cal State Fullerton, 3-2. UCR (2-1-1) is above .500 for the first time since early October of 2009.
UC Davis kept the upper hand against fellow northern California rival Sacramento State, defeating the Hornets 1-0 on Sunday. The win improved the Aggies’ record against Sacramento State to 4-0-1 since 2007. Senior goalkeeper Maria Magana picked up her second shutout to help the Aggies move to 2-1-0 on the season. UC Davis faces San Jose State on the road on Sunday.
Lancaster Provides Another Game-Winner
Forward Sara Lancaster has made quite an impact as a freshman on the Cal Poly program. The first two goals of her young career have resulted in game-winning strikes. Lancaster scored the winning goal in the Mustangs’ season-opening 2-1 triumph at Cincinnati. She emerged again in a 2-1 overtime victory at Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, knocking in a rebounded shot in the 106th minute.
Knack For The Dramatic
Cal State Fullerton senior Stacey Fox is the program’s active career leader with nine goals, and she scores them at the most crucial times. Three of her nine career strikes have accounted for game-winners. In 2010, her three goals either won or tied a match. On Friday, in a 2-1 overtime defeat to Pepperdine, Fox scored with just over six minutes remaining in regulation to gift the Titans a 1-0 lead, but they could not maintain the lead.
Ledezma Named To Team Of The Week
UC Irvine forward Natalia Ledezma earned a spot on the TopDrawerSoccer.com Team of the Week after her two goals helped propel the Anteaters to a 2-0 effort. The sophomore transfer from UCLA has made an immediate impact in the UCI lineup, leading the Big West with three goals in the early going of 2011.
Western Flavor Greets This Week’s Schedule
The Big West aims to move above .500 in nonconference play with a slate of 15 contests this week. The league owns a 15-15-3 record through two weeks of action. The schedule is decidedly slanted toward opponents from the neighboring western conferences this week, as 11 of the 15 games are against teams from the WAC, WCC, Big Sky and Mountain West conferences. In fact, six games pit Big West against WAC teams. The Big West is unbeaten so far (3-0-2) against the WAC.
49ers Anticipate Home Return
It was a disappointing trip for then-No. 23 Long Beach State, which fell out of the rankings after narrow one-goal defeats to Milwaukee and then-No. 12 Marqutte last week. The 49ers look forward to the friendly confines of George Allen Field, where they play their next three matches against Princeton, Hawai’i and California. LBSU is 6-2-2 at home since the start of the 2009 season.
Allowing just four goals in four matches would seem to bode well for most teams, but not in UC Santa Barbara’s case. The Gauchos held a pair of talented opponents in No. 16 Santa Clara and Minnesota to a combined three goals last weekend, but came away with an 0-2 record. The UCSB offense has been able to muster only three goals, resulting in a 1-2-1 record. In the midst of a four-match homestand, the Gauchos hope to discover some offensive rhythm in matches against Fresno State and New Mexico.
More Close Game Chatter
The Big West has been involved in 17 one-goal games and has posted a 9-8 record. UC Irvine is 3-0 and Cal Poly 2-0 in matches decided by a single goal.