(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
With the season starting on Friday, the No. 6 BYU women's soccer team is ready to begin their defense of the West Coast Conference championship and make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. The 2013 online media guide is ready. To get familiar with the teams on the Cougars schedule check out their team capsules below.
Cal State Fullerton (10-9-1, 7-2)
Cal State Fullerton won the Big West regular season title but lost in the Big West tournament finals 1-0 to Cal State Northridge and missed out on the NCAA tournament. This season, the Titans are picked to win the conference again. Returning sophomore Christina Burkenroad scored five goals and only started in four games. She'll be taking on more of the goal-scoring responsibility, while senior goalkeeper Lindsey Maricic had .98 GAA last season and will try to key the defense for the Titans in her third season as the starting keeper.
Nebraska (7-12-1, 3-6-1)
The Huskers return 11 players who started last year and 16 letterwinners. Part of those returning include All-Big Ten Second Team forward Mayme Conroy, defender Ari Romero and All-Freshman Team defender Jaylyn Odermann. Conroy scored 14 goals last season which was more than half of Nebraska's total offensive output. It will be Nebraska's defense that will need to limit teams to something less than the 1.9 goals per game from 2012. They were picked to finish in ninth place and finished tied for seventh in the strong Big Ten last year.
#22 LSU (9-8-4, 5-6-2)
The Tigers have gone to four of the last six NCAA tournaments including three straight from 2007-2009. Over that span, LSU has been ranked as high as No. 9 in the country and start the year ranked 22nd. The Tigers were picked to finish second in the SEC West and fifth in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
The Tigers return seven starters and 14 letterwinners. LSU had 13 players score last season, but no one player netted more than four goals. Midfielders Alex Arlitt and Fernanda Pina both scored four goals and return to lead the Tigers in the middle of the field. LSU has six players from foreign countries on its roster, two from Mexico, three from Canada and one from New Zealand.
Utah (8-8-3, 3-7-1)
The Utes handed the Cougars their only regular season loss last year winning 1-0 in Salt Lake City. Utah didn't lose a single starter or letterwinner and added six more recruits to their team. With so little turnover, Utah was still picked to finish ninth in the strong Pac-12. They return forward Katie Taylor who scored four goals and assisted on four more last season, as well as defender Harley Spier who scored five goals coming off the bench in 15 of the 17 games she played. They also return their goalkeeper Lindsey Luke who had a 1.12 GAA and recorded four shutouts.
Oregon (8-10-2, 3-7-1)
Oregon's stellar freshman striker Kristen Parr who scored seven goals last season returns to add to her tally for the Ducks under new head coach Kat Mertz. Goalkeeper Abby Steele allowed just over one goal per game in her sophomore season. For the second straight year, BYU will travel to Oregon to face the Ducks on their turf field which was completed last year. BYU won that game 1-0. Oregon was picked to finish 11th in the strong Pac-12 this season, but will still have a shot at the NCAA tournament.
UC Irvine (9-8-4, 5-1-3)
The Anteaters lost in the Big West Conference tournament semifinals. UC Irvine played 10 teams that went to the NCAA tournament last season and won four of those games with three of those wins coming on the road. They almost grabbed another one against BYU as the Cougars needed overtime to win 3-2. The Anteaters return goal scorer Laura McGrail and sophomore goalkeeper Corey Tobin who had a .94 GAA as a freshman. Irvine was picked second in the Big West behind Cal State Fullerton and tied with Long Beach State.
Oklahoma (7-9-4, 3-3-2)
Oklahoma finished fifth in the Big-12 last season under first year head coach Matt Potter. The Sooners lost a majority of its starters. Five starters return as do two more letterwinners, but 15 freshmen and three transfers will mean Potter has more coaching to do in his second season in Norman. Potter's team has only eight upper classmen and Oklahoma's top returning scorer, Kelly Price, only netted two goals in 12 games off the bench. The Sooners were picked eighth out of the nine teams in the Big-12.
Long Beach State (12-8-0, 5-4-0)
Long Beach State is on a run of three consecutive berths in the NCAA tournament yet didn't qualify for the Big West Conference tournament last season before losing to Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The 49ers lost an All-West Region forward and defender along with five other seniors. Last season, the Cougars defeated then No. 11-ranked Long Beach State 1-0 at South Field in Provo. This season Long Beach State was picked to finish second in the Big West.
#25 Denver (17-3-4, 7-0-1)
The University of Denver returns seven starters from its team that reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Denver's two main returning starters, forward Kristen Hamilton and midfielder Nicholette DiGiacomo, have each started 67 games in their careers. Hamilton scored 14 goals and assisted on seven more in 2012 and is on the Hermann Trophy Watch List, while DiGiacomo scored seven and assisted on nine. Denver was unbeaten in the WAC last season, but has moved to the Summit League for 2013 where they are the favorites to win the championship.
#10 Baylor (19-1-5, 5-0-3)
BYU will play Baylor in the final game of a seven-game homestand for the Bears. Baylor made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in 2012 and returns eight starters and 23 letterwinners. The Bears were good enough for second in the Big 12 in the regular season, but Baylor took home the Big 12 tournament title before embarking on its NCAA tourney run.
San Francisco (7-8-4, 2-5-1)
San Francisco only lost three seniors from last year's team. A forward, a defender and a forward who played eight games in goal because of injury. Mackenzie Kreiser scored nine goals and assisted on two more last season and will return to lead the Dons. Kreiser and eight other players played in every game last season and return this year to give San Francisco an experienced team looking to improve on last season. They were picked to finish seventh in the WCC. Last year, BYU beat the Dons 3-1 in Provo.
#9 Santa Clara (12-4-6, 4-1-3)
Santa Clara was picked to win the West Coast Conference by every opposing coach. The Broncos had two players called in for the United States U-20 team this summer, midfielder Dani Weatherholt and goalkeeper Andi Tostanoski, and that doesn't include First Team All-American midfielder Julie Johnston who returns for her senior season. Johnston is on the Hermann Trophy Watch List and led Santa Clara with eight goals and 21 points last year. All-American transfer Morgan Marlborough will also add to the attack as she has trained with the national team this summer as well. The Broncos play 11 teams that made the NCAA tournament last season, including defending national champion North Carolina. Last year, Santa Clara tied BYU 0-0 in Provo. It was the only game the Cougars didn't win in WCC play in 2012.
#25 Pepperdine (14-7-0, 5-3-0)
The Waves made the NCAA tournament for the second straight season in 2012. Amanda LeCave returns off a 10-goal season and Michelle Pao returns after a nine-assist effort , but it's Lynn Williams who is on the Hermann Trophy Watch List that will lead the Waves attack. The Waves scored 37 goals last season. Pepperdine only lost six players from last year's team that was ranked in the top 25 each week. This year the Waves were picked to finish fourth in the conference. Pepperdine will try to reach the NCAA tournament for the third straight season. BYU beat them 2-0 on the road last year.
LMU (9-8-2, 3-5-0)
The Lions return a large amount of their team from last year and should make a run for an NCAA tournament berth. Those responsible for 19 of their 24 goals will be back on the field looking to improve on their winning record of a year ago. Last year, BYU beat Loyola Marymount 1-0 in overtime on the road. Returners Darien Pyka and Tawni Martino each scored four goals in 2012. Jocelyn Blankenship scored three goals and assisted on five more. Loyola was picked to finish sixth this season in the WCC.
Gonzaga (8-11-1, 1-6-1)
Gonzaga finished eighth in the WCC last season and haven't made it to the NCAA tournament since 2005. The Zags return seven starters and 14 letterwinners, including three of their top four scorers. Gonzaga lost two defenders and a goalkeeper who started every game last season. The Cougars beat Gonzaga 4-1 at South Field last season and the Zags were picked to finish ninth this season in the WCC.
#15 Portland (11-5-5, 5-1-2)
Portland lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but hardly lost anyone and had a top 10 recruiting class. This year's team might be even tougher as nine starters return and only three letterwinners don't. BYU beat Portland 2-1 at home last season. Portland was picked second in the WCC and had midfielder Michelle Cruz and forward Amanda Frisbie selected to the Preseason All-WCC Team. Frisbie is also on the Hermann Trophy Watch List.
San Diego (8-11-0, 4-4-0)
San Diego returns three of its four leading scorers from last season. Emily Dillon, Mariah Butera and Kelly McCloskey each scored at least three goals last season and will be counted on to provide some more offense for a team that only averaged 1.26 goals per game. BYU beat San Diego 4-1 on the road last year. Junior defender Meghan O'Rourke was selected to Preseason All-WCC Team, while San Diego was picked to finish fifth in the conference.
Pacific (3-4-1, 0-8-1)
This is Pacific's first year in the West Coast Conference since the 1970s. They previously played in the Big West. The Tigers won't have an easier time in this year's West Coast Conference as four teams will be nationally ranked to start the season. The Tigers do return their top two forwards from last year. Seniors Maricela Padilla and Brittini Beaman were responsible for half of the Tigers goals in 2012. They combined for 10 goals and 23 points.
Saint Mary's (6-12-2, 1-7-0)
The Gaels' Vicki Shimkus netted five goals and assisted on three more in 2012, while Christina Tognetti scored four and assisted on three more. Khayla Jones started in 13 games as a freshman in goal and returns for her sophomore campaign. Last year, the Cougars beat the Gaels 5-0 at South Field. Saint Mary's was picked to finish eighth in the conference.