Aug. 20, 2009

By Amy Farnum

BIG OPENING:  There will be no anticipation of key match-ups between nationally-ranked opponents when the Division I women’s soccer season immediately gets into gear this weekend as No. 1 North Carolina hosts third-ranked UCLA on Aug. 22.

The contest at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C., between the defending NCAA champion Tar Heels and the Bruins will be a rematch of last year’s NCAA semifinal game that UNC won 1-0.  The Tar Heels are 7-0 in the series against UCLA.

North Carolina returns 22 letterwinners and eight starters from last year’s squad that won its 20th national championship and 19th Atlantic Coast Conference title, while UCLA also welcomes back eight starters. 

Both teams boast a trio of players on the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List with UNC’s Casey Nogueira, Tobin Heath and Whitney Engen and UCLA’s Lauren Cheney, Lauren Barnes and Sydney Leroux.  Nogueira led the Tar Heels with 25 goals last season, while Cheney paced the Bruins with 31 points.

KNIGHT SHIFT:  Rutgers senior goalkeeper Erin Guthrie continues to collect preseason accolades, most recently earning Soccer America Preseason All-America Second Team honors.

The captain from Sparta, N.J., has already been dubbed the BIG EAST Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year, and is a candidate for the Hermann Trophy.  She compiled nine shutouts with a 0.62 goals against average as she sparked the Scarlet Knights to advance to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16.

Rutgers is ranked No. 20 in the NSCAA/adidas Preseason Poll on the merits of returning eight starters from last year’s 13-7-2 squad.  Guthrie is one of four All-BIG EAST selections on the team, along with senior midfielder Gina DeMaio, who is also a Hermann Trophy candidate.

The Scarlet Knights open the 2009 season on Aug. 25 against UMBC and head coach Alyssa Radu, a former Rutgers standout.

DUKE-ING IT OUT: James Madison was voted as the favorite to claim the Colonial Athletic Association title as the Dukes return nine starters from last year’s squad that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the first time since 1996.

The Dukes, who are the first team receiving votes in the NSCAA/adidas Preseason Poll, welcome back four All-CAA performers, including senior forward Corky Julien.  The native of Williamstown, Ontario, garnered CAA Player of the Year and All-America honors in 2008 after tallying 16 goals and 35 points for JMU. 

Julien played for the Canadian National Team this summer, and is on the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List.  Last year, she set a school record by scoring a goal in nine consecutive contests.

The Dukes open the season by hosting Richmond on Aug. 22.

FLYING HIGH:  The University of Dayton returns a solid lineup that has been predicted to win the Atlantic 10 women’s soccer title by the league coaches after putting together a 15-6-1 mark last year.

"I hope our conference is full of smart coaches," said head coach Mike Tucker. "I appreciate the recognition and our team being at the top of the poll in the preseason, but what I really want is for us to be there at the end of the season."

The Flyers bring back five seniors, including three-time First Team Atlantic 10 honoree and reigning Ohio Player of the Year Mandi Bäck, and First Team A-10 selection Colleen Gibson.   Dayton rolled through its’ spring season undefeated, allowing just one goal while scoring 13 during the off-season practice period.

Dayton opens the season at Loyola-Chicago on Aug. 23.