Aug. 18, 2006
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - After a one-year hiatus from the NCAA Women's Soccer College Cup Tournament, the University of San Diego women's soccer team is locked, loaded and ready to make its return to the NCAA postseason.
The Toreros are returning 17 letter winners from this past season's squad including seven starters. Head coach Ada Greenwood believes that the underclassmen laden roster, mixed in with some new faces has the experience and talent to make a good run in the NCAA tournament.
"One of our goals this season is to return to the NCAA Tournament," said Greenwood. "I think we have a team capable of making a good run in the tournament. Our mentality is to just take it one day at a time and not to take any opponents for granted."
In 2005 the Toreros has a dissapointing finish due to injuries suffered in the preseason, but USD will look to turn that disappointing finish into a positive note, and USD can rely on veteran leadership to get them there. Seniors Veronica Ambort, Brittany Young and Joslyn Williams will be looked upon by Greenwood to help return the Toreros to their winning ways.
USD will also look for help from the front line to return to their winning ways and the return of junior forward Amy Epsten has Greenwood excited. As a freshman in 2004, Epsten was tabbed as the West Coast Conference's Freshman of the Year after producing a team-best 10 goals. Last season, Epsten was battling through several injuries causing her numbers to drop a bit. Greenwood is excited about her performance during the spring season and feels she is ready to return to her 2004 form.
"Amy is going to want to get back to the high level WCC Freshman of the Year form where she scored 10 goals," said Greenwood. "She still has that quality. She had a very good spring for us and we are looking to her to be very strong for us up front."
The rest of the forward spots are still up for grabs, but Greenwood has a plethora of talent to choose from. Leigh Ann Robinson, a 2005 All-WCC second team honoree, could be one of those possibilities after finishing her 2005 campaign scoring one goal and one assist for three points while serving as a mainstay in the Toreros midfield. Robinson has great ability, can finish well with both feet and can beat opponents off the dribble. Greenwood perceives her as one of the "fastest players in the WCC."
Allison Wolters is another one of the possibilities the Toreros could use up front. Wolters has impressed the coaching staff with her play during the spring as she, along with Epsten, began scoring a lot of goals. "She had a fantastic spring and started scoring and is starting to get confident. I am very optimistic about what she can do up front," said Greenwood.
Christine Mock has also emerged as a possible starter for the front line. Greenwood will look to Mock to give USD an extra scoring threat up front. Mock was a top-10 recruit for USD heading into the 2005 season and scored one goal for two points in 2005. Mock is a versatile player who could also see some time in the midfield for the Toreros as well as up front.
Christina Carriaga, a 2005 All-WCC honorable mention, is another versatile Torero who Greenwood feels can play up front, in the midfield or in the back line. In 2005 Carriaga tallied one assist for one point while serving as a mainstay in the Toreros backfield, helping USD bolster a 1.90 goals-against-average.
Another returner who could also see time in the front line, or in the midfield is Ashley Kirk. Kirk, a sophomore from Windsor, Calif., saw limited time on the filed this past season as she appeared in 12 matches with one start and registered one shot as a true freshman.
In the midfield the Toreros again have a plethora of talent for Greenwood to choose from. One constant for USD will be the play of senior Ambort. In 2005 Ambort began the season slow as she was battling back from injuries but as the season progressed, so too did Ambort. She finished the season strong and posted one goal for two points en route to earning an All-WCC Honorable Mention.
The remaining positions in the midfield are up for grabs, with several newcomers as well as returners battling it out for playing time. One of the strong possibilities for a starter is sophomore Jackie Garcia. In 2005, Garcia was one of two Toreros to play and start in all 19 matches and recorded one assist while taking 17 shots on the season.
The Toreros final returning midfielder, Madeline Buchanan, will also be vying for playing time in the midfield in 2006. Buchanan played in eight matches with one start and recorded one goal and one assist for three points.
USD will look to strong leadership from two of its seniors in the back line, Young and Williams. Both of these players have seen significant time on the field and understand what it takes to get back to the NCAA postseason. Young is coming off a season in which she registered one assist for one point and helped the USD defense bolster a 1.90 GAA. Williams also had a solid season helping the Toreros defense as he provided leadership and experience to the Toreros.
With none of the positions solidified as of yet, Vanessa Vella could see time on the defensive side of things as well. Last season, Vella scored one goal and two assists for four points as a mainstay in the Toreros backfield. Greenwood feels that Vella is a top level defender and sees her competing with Young for the center back position.
In the net for the Toreros there is a battle going on between junior Karen Cook and sophomore Brittany Cameron. Last season each keeper took their turn seeing time in the net and both looked solid with Cameron playing a majority of the minutes. Cameron posted a 3-8 record with one shutout and had a GAA of 1.84. Cook, USD's starter as a freshman, posted a 3-4-1 record with one shutout and a GAA of 2.00. Greenwood said that these two will battle it out in camp to determine who will be the starter.
The Incoming freshman class and other newcomers, according to Greenwood, are a very versatile and talented group of athletes. He sees all of them as having a chance at making the starting line-up in 2006.
Natalie Vinti is one of the versatile players on the 2006 roster Greenwood says he can stick in anywhere on the field. Vinti is a four-time All-CIF player from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. As a senior she helped lead her team to the CIF Division III championship and as a junior she was a catalyst for the team earning a share of the CIF championship.
Another versatile newcomer to the San Diego roster will be Hallie Huston from La Jolla Country Day School, who is among Soccerbuzz.com's top-50 recruits in the nation. Houston comes to USD after four consecutive first-team All-CIF selections, four first-team All-Costal League selections and leading her team to a CIF Division IV championship as a senior. She was a member of the Olympic Development Program and was named a 2005 NSCAA All-American.
Jessica Larabee joins the Toreros roster after a standout career at Palos Verdes High School in Palos Verdes, Calif. As a senior she was selected first-team All-CIF Division V after leading her team to a Pioneer League championship and a trip the second round of the CIF playoffs. She was a four-time first-team All-Pioneer League selection and was named her teams Best Offensive Player as a senior.
Giuliana Longmire brings a wealth of high-level experience to the program having been a member of the Region IV team, made the National Pool, and attended the National Camp since 2002. She has been a formidable defender earning Bay Valley HS All League Defender from 2002-2005. Longmire currently plays for the Pleasanton Rage club team.
Elyse Juliano is a defensive newcomer to the Toreros and will look to be an instant help to San Diego's defense. Juliano comes to San Diego after a four-year career at Rosary High School in Santa Ana, Calif. She was tabbed as a first-team All-Serra League as a senior.
USD's next newcomer is sophomore transfer Tara Hodgson, who played her freshman season at the University of Washington. During her freshman season she played in 11 matches recording seven total shots, two on goal.
Cassandra Tinyo comes to the Toreros after a standout career at Aliso Viejo High School. She was a catalyst for her team winning three consecutive Sea View League championships en route to earning three consecutive first-team All-Sea View League selections. As a senior she was named Division I third-team All-CIF.
The next newcomer to the Toreros roster in 2006 is Marina Heberer, who hails from Oceanside, Calif. While attending Carlsbad High School she was twice named to the Union Tribune's All-Academic team, was once named All-Avocado League honorable mention and was named her team's Best Defender of the Year as a senior. She helped her team advance to the semifinals in the CIF playoffs as a sophomore, and was a catalist for her senior season's team in making the CIF Quarterfinals.
The Toreros' final newcomer is Esmeralda Olamendi, who comes to the Toreros from Dana Point, Calif. While attending Dana Hills High School she was a member of the soccer team that saw her named the team's best midfielder as a freshman, sophomore and junior. She is also a member of the FC United Futbol soccer club team, and helped her team win the 2004 Celtic Cup Championship, while earning her team's MVP award.
The Toreros 2006 schedule is difficult, but this is a surprise to no one, as USD has become an elite program. Over the past 10 plus years USD has consistently made the NCAA College Cup Tournament and has also been in the national polls. This season the Toreros will once again have to battle through a schedule that features seven teams that were in last season's NCAA College Cup Tournament including the defending national champion University of Portland. USD will compete against three teams in the Pacific 10 Conference (UCLA, USC, Arizona State), four teams from the Big West Conference (Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly SLO) and play two out of region teams in Dayton and Ohio State at the Pepperdine Tournament. USD `s final hurdle in the schedule will be to play through the tough WCC schedule which features four teams from last season's NCAA College Cup Tournament in Portland, Santa Clara, Pepperdine and Gonzaga. The WCC is perceived as one of the best conferences for women's soccer in the country, so the Toreros don't get a lull in their schedule for 2006, it will be tough from start to finish.
"I am excited about our schedule and about our team," said Greenwood. "I think that our schedule is going to be very tough, but I am confident that we can do well and get back to the NCAA Tournament."