WEST COAST CONFERENCE WOMEN'S SOCCER
SAN BRUNO, Calif. – The West Coast Conference once again featured great performances and great results in the non-conference portion of the women's soccer schedule. With conference play set to open this weekend, here is a look at the accomplishments of the WCC in non-conference contests.
Ashley Hatch – NCAA Leader
BYU senior forward Ashley Hatch has made a return to remember after missing half of the 2015 season due to injury. The WCC Co-Player of the Year as a sophomore two seasons ago, Hatch has continued right where she left off and is putting up numbers to put her in serious consideration for the Hermann Trophy award, the collegiate soccer equivalent of the Heisman Trophy given to the best player in NCAA soccer. Hatch enters conference play as the national leader in goals (12), points (28), goals per game (1.20) and points per game (2.80).
The WCC vs the Top 25
West Coast Conference teams have put together difficult non-conference schedules to prepare themselves for the nine-game grind to become the 2016 WCC women’s soccer champion. Included in those preparations was a slate that included 16 contests against teams ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Top 25 poll. WCC teams went a combined 6-8-2 against these teams in the first two months of the season. The best mark goes to BYU – ranked No. 3 in the same national poll this week – as the Cougars were a perfect 2-0-0 against ranked opponents with both wins coming on the road. Santa Clara takes the honor of playing the most games against ranked opponents, going an even 2-2-1 in five fixtures. Pepperdine and Saint Mary’s have also registered wins against ranked teams this season.
WCC Soccer on ESPNU
The second week of the season will bring national television to the campus of Loyola Marymount when the Lions host BYU on ESPNU and WatchESPN. Kick-off for that game is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6 at Sullivan Field.
INDIVIDUAL TEAM NOTES
No. 3 BYU was the preseason favorite to win the WCC title, and the Cougars have looked the part so far with one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. The Cougars rank fourth in the country with 3.00 goals per game, led by national scoring leader Ashley Hatch. Alongside her is the duo of Michele Vasconcelos and Nadia Gomes who rank 11th and 48th nationally, respectively, in points per game. Gomes is also third in the country with eight assists, one shy of the leader.
The Zags like to keep things close. After a nine-game non-conference season, only one match has been decided by more than one goal, meaning that we may be in store for some nail-biters in WCC play when the Zags are on the pitch. Three games have gone to overtime, two games ended in draws (2-2 at Idaho, 3-3 against Boise State), three wins were by 1-0 scores (Nevada, Washington State and Montana) and the three losses were by scores of 2-1, 2-1, 1-0. The only outlier was a 5-2 Gonzaga win against Portland State. Up first are home games against LMU and Pepperdine, two teams that have been ranked this season. Gonzaga has not lost at home so far this season, so the Zags will want to keep things close in search of potential upsets.
A Round of 16 team last year, LMU has played a strong schedule that has them in NCAA consideration heading into conference play with an RPI of 38. The Lions are second in the WCC with 2.20 goals per game, but – unlike most of their rivals – you won’t find any of their student-athletes at the top of the scoring charts because LMU has done it with the most balanced scoring attack in the league. Twelve different players have scored their 22 goals this season, with seven of those notching at least two scores. Sarina Bolden and Maddie Medved lead the team with three tallies each. Everyone even gets into the creative action with nine players contributing 14 assists.
Pacific enters conference play looking for their first win of the season, but the play of senior goalkeeper Lena Perry has been a bright spot for the Tigers. Perry leads the conference and ranks ninth nationally with 7.71 saves per game. The second-year starter comes in just shy of a .800 save percentage and will be looked upon to help keep the Tigers in games over the next half of the season.
No. 25 Pepperdine has not lost back-to-back games this season largely in part due to the play of senior goalkeeper Hannah Seabert. As the Waves work towards securing another NCAA Tournament appearance, all eyes will be between the pipes as Seabert closes in on the Pepperdine career saves record that is currently held by former great Anna Picarelli. Sitting at 302 saves, Seabert is 17 saves shy of the record and just nine shy of the Pepperdine all-time wins record of 47.
Merlot Field continues its reputation as the place to be in Portland as fans continue to come out in large numbers to watch the Pilots in what has been a season that has shown promise to be a return to form under head coach Garrett Smith. With a 6-2-2 record, the Pilots finish non-conference play with two or less losses for the second time since 2011. Portland has finished below second in the conference standings just five times in program history, and of those five times, only once have the Pilots entered WCC play with two or less non-conference losses … and that one time was the 2002 national championship season. If history is a guide, the Pilots may be looking at either a top-two WCC finish or a national title.
Saint Mary’s Gaels
Perhaps the biggest upset of the non-conference season was the Saint Mary’s 2-0 win against East Bay rival No. 12 California on Sept. 9. The victory was especially memorable for second-year coach Travis Clarke in that the seemingly improbably win was the 100th victory of his coaching career that has spanned 11 seasons with three different programs. The win seems to have sparked something in his team as well. The Gaels enter conference play on a two-match unbeaten streak with a win against Sacramento State and a draw with UC Davis.
San Diego Toreros
San Diego has put together another healthy mix of Power 5 teams on the schedule, but this season has seen all of those games played on the road. The result is a 5-4-1 record that has the Toreros unbeaten at home and in neutral site games against squads like NC State and San Diego State, but a 1-4-0 record in road games with losses at Utah, UCLA, Wake Forest and Oregon State. The good news for San Diego is that the level of road competition has the team ready for the WCC grind. The even better news? The trio of BYU, Portland and Santa Clara all visit Torero Stadium this season.
San Francisco Dons
San Francisco opens conference play with one potentially the toughest opening-weekend draw with games at San Diego and No. 2 BYU. The Dons will be hoping to have history on their side after knocking off both teams last season – the only team in the WCC to defeat both programs in 2015. San Francisco enters the weekend on a winning streak, and victories against the Toreros and Cougars will signal their intent to again finish in the top third of the conference standings after last season’s second-place finish at 7-2-0.
Santa Clara Broncos
The Broncos have the distinction of entering conference play with the second-toughest schedule in the country with opponents going a combined 61-24-10 (.695) up to this point. Santa Clara has played five nationally-ranked programs, earning wins against No. 11 USC and No. 21 California. Of Santa Clara’s 10 games played, all but two came against Power 5 conferences. The Broncos have been riding the goalkeeper duo of Melissa Lowder and Courtney Ogren who sport goals against averages of 1.00 and 1.01, respectively.