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The early-season form of some of the country's top women's programs was
skewed because they were playing without key players. Of the eight 2006
quarterfinalists, six were without players representing the USA at the
Under-20 Women's World Championship in Russia for the first two weeks
of the college season. Since their return, these 12 players all had
roles in leading their teams to this weekend's Elite Eight.
ADAMS (UCLA). The Shaker Heights, Ohio, product has missed time
during the regular season to play with the U-20s and senior national
team for which she made her international debut this fall, but she
leads the Bruins in the
postseason with five goals in three games to give her 12 for the
BRITTANY BOCK (Notre Dame).
Much has been made of Kerri Hanks,
the nation's leading scorer, and Freshman of the Year
candidate Michele Weissenhofer,
but Bock is just as important to the top-ranked Irish's attack. She
scored the first two goals in the third-round win over Colorado -- the
first on a rocket from 25 yards -- to give her 11 goals this season and
five in the postseason. She is one of the most dangerous players in the
air in the country with six goals on headers in 2006.
(UCLA). Since returning from Russia, Cheney has scored 18 goals
in 19 games and is tied with Adams for the team lead with seven
game-winning goals. She earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors and
is the top candidate for national Freshman of the Year honors along
with Notre Dame's Weissenhofer.
CARRIE DEW (Notre Dame). The
center back from Encinitas, Calif., won Big East Defensive Player of
the Year honors but went down with an ACL tear in her knee on Oct. 24
sidelined her every since.
DIMARTINO (UCLA). The 5-foot-2 playmaker was one of three
Bruins, along with Adams and Cheney, selected to the All-Pac-10 first
team. The Long Island product is perhaps the Bruins' most important
player, running the attack from her midfield spot.
HARDY (UCLA). The sophomore helped stabilize a backline that
also includes one senior (Bristyn Davis)
and two freshmen (Lydia Cook
and Lauren Wilmoth). UCLA has
allowed only 13 goals in 20 games since Hardy's return from Russia.
TOBIN HEATH (North Carolina). When
Carolina hosts Texas A&M Saturday in the quarterfinals, Coach Anson Dorrance will send out a
different team from the one that lost to Texas A&M
in overtime in their opening game of the season. Casey Nogueira and
Heath were in Russia with the U-20s and Robin Gayle was playing with
Canada's senior national team. Since the loss in College Station,
Carolina has won 24 games in
a row. Heath, one of the most promising left-sided players to emerge
out of the U.S. youth system in
recent years, has four goals and nine assists.
HENDERSON. (UCLA). With the Bruins' 6-1 victory over UNLV in the
first round, Henderson set a new school record for career wins with 53
-- and she is just a junior. Henderson won the starting job as a
freshman and kept it as a sophomore, forcing fellow U-20 keeper Kelsey Davis to transfer to
Portland, where she is red-shirting in 2006.
ALLIE LONG (Penn State). Long,
who scored the game-winning goal in the Big Ten Tournament final, is
shooting for two Women's College Cup appearances in two seasons, but
it's a longshot. The Nittany Lions have to play Friday night at No. 1
and they are banged up. Long missed the first game of the NCAA
Tournament with an injury. Long and fellow midfielder Sheree Gray did
not practice on Tuesday before the Lions headed to South Bend.
(Portland). Like Adams, whom she
will face when the Pilots meet UCLA Friday night in Westwood, Lopez was
called up for the Women's Gold Cup after spending part of the fall with
the senior national team. Lopez, who captained the
U-20s, has missed 10 collegiate matches in 2006 because of
international duty and subsequent rest.
CASEY NOGUEIRA (North Carolina).
The daughter of legendary indoor keeper Victor Nogueira is like Heath a
member of Carolina's much-publicized freshman class. The Heels'
lineup had already started to take shape by the time Nogueira returned
from Russia, so she never cracked the starting lineup. In Carolina's
three NCAA Tournament games -- all big wins -- Nogueira has been
averaging almost 50 minutes off the bench.
WAGENFUHR (Florida State). FSU's attack has sputtered all
season, so the backline with Wagenfuhr in the middle has bailed the
'Noles out. Wagenfuhr's
older brother, David, starred
at Creighton and now plays for MLS's FC Dallas.
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