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From The Commissioner's Desk

Nov. 16, 2006

"This is an exciting time of year for a WCC sports fan, as WCC cross country and soccer teams are involved in NCAA postseason play, multiple WCC volleyball teams are positioning themselves for invitations to the NCAA Volleyball Championships, and men's and women's basketball is underway.

We experienced another hotly contested season in both our men's and women's soccer conference races, with Santa Clara University ultimately winning the conference championship for both the men and the women. The WCC then placed multiple teams in the NCAA Men's and Women's Soccer Championships, with two teams left standing as this is written. The University of Portland women's soccer team is preparing to play in the Sweet 16, marking the 13th time in the past 15 seasons that UP's women's team has achieved that significant level of success in the NCAA Tournament. On the men's side, nationally-ranked Santa Clara received a first-round bye and defeated the University of Washington to also advance to the Sweet 16. Congratulations to the University of San Francisco for earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship, and to Loyola Marymount University and the University of Portland for earning at-large bids to the NCAA Women's Soccer Championships.

I would like to congratulate our WCC Soccer Players of the Year, as selected by the head coaches. Marian Dalmy of Santa Clara University was named the WCC Women's Soccer Player of the Year, and Rob Valentino of the University of San Francisco was named the WCC Men's Soccer Player of the Year.

Congratulations also to Jerry Smith of Santa Clara, selected by his colleagues as the WCC Women's Soccer Coach of the Year, and Cam Rast of Santa Clara, selected by his colleagues as the WCC Men's Soccer Coach of the Year.

By the way, those of you who followed World Cup action last summer will recall seeing Kasey Keller in goal for the USA, and please know that Kasey was an all-WCC performer at the University of Portland. In fact, two other players with WCC roots also made the USA team: Brian Ching of Gonzaga University, and Steve Cherundolo of the University of Portland. Soccer fans also will recognize Brian Ching as the recent MVP of the MLS championship game (Brian plays for the Houston Dynamos).

The women's US National Soccer Team currently includes current University of Portland All-American Stephanie Lopez and two former Santa Clara University standouts, Leslie Osborne and Aly Wagner. We will watch with interest as they help the United States qualify for the 2007 FIFA World Cup.

Shifting gears to cross country, we were blessed with great weather and an enthusiastic group of fans at our recent WCC Cross Country Championships in Belmont, California. The University of Portland, whose men's and women's cross country teams each were nationally ranked this season, won both the WCC Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships. Rob Connor of Portland was selected by his colleagues as WCC Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year, and Ian Soloff of Portland was selected by his colleagues as WCC Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year.

Congratulations to Portland's men's cross country team, which just received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships held later this month in Indiana, probably due in large part to Portland's strong performance in arguably the toughest region in the country.

I also want to congratulate our individual cross country champions, Laura Mickelson of Loyola Marymount University and Mike Quackenbush of the University of Portland. In addition, because of her strong performance at the recent NCAA West Regional (hosted by the University of Portland), Mickelson has qualified to participate in the NCAA National Cross Country Championships, the first LMU student-athlete to do so.

Our conference volleyball season has one week to go, and the University of San Diego has clinched the WCC title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships. The nationally-ranked Toreros will learn their opponent and site on November 26. While USD is assured of a place in the national tournament, and should be a high seed in the event, we have several other teams who have compiled impressive seasons and will make a strong case to be invited to participate as at-large teams. We have a strong history of multiple participation and success in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships, and we have earned a reputation as one of the strongest volleyball conferences in the country, so let's hope this season brings more of the same postseason success. I'll recap the volleyball season in my next report.

Finally, please note that the next several weeks are crucial for our men's and women's basketball teams in terms of building impressive bodies of work for consideration as at-large invitees to the respective NCAA Basketball Championships. As fans of college basketball will know, entire cottage industries have sprung up devoted to the challenge of predicting the teams that will be selected for the NCAA Basketball Championships. Our automatic-bid recipients will be determined by who wins the 2007 conference championships to be held at the University of Portland March 1-5. What happens next for teams that do not win our conference championship is determined to a large extent by their non-conference success. The selection committees will ask: Who did you play? Where did you play them? And of course, did you win? The committee will know all about key players who missed games due to injury or illness. In fact, the selection committees will have information about virtually every component that goes into a team's body of work.

So when you follow your favorite men's or women's basketball team as this young season unfolds, please know that these early season games are very important. Conference play is still many weeks away, but now is the time for a team with realistic postseason aspirations to make its case on the court. We have many quality opponents on our schedules this year, and many opportunities to make our case for the ultimate selections that are still four months away.

Thanks for your continued interest and support."