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MORNING BRIEFING: UCLA back at full strength
by Paul Kennedy, September 11th, 2008 8AM



With its Olympians Lauren Cheney (USA) and Kara Lang (Canada) back in the starting lineup up front and Erin Hardy having returned to the backline, No. 1 UCLA looks tough to beat.

Cheney has scored the game-winning goal in all three games since her return from Beijing, where she won the gold medal. But it has been a collective effort for the Bruins, who have gotten goals from nine different players in their first four games.

The big question mark going into the season was how redshirt senior Ashley Thompson would do in goal, where she is starting for the first time in her career. Thompson, who replaced Valerie Henderson, has given up only one goal in four games. She was outstanding in the 1-0 win at Portland, making two early saves to keep the Bruins in the game.

LION SUPERSTITIONS. College soccer doesn't have the witchcraft that is prevalent in the African game, but it has plenty of superstitions.

At Penn State, the superstitions begin with Nittany Lion women's pregame meals -- each player has her preferred restaurant -- and extend to the game.

Defender Maura Ryan wears a Ronaldinho bracelet with the phrase "Play beautifully" written in Portuguese. She has a supply of Ronaldinho bracelets in reserve to avoid what happened when she was a freshman. She lost the bracelet and then went out and played, but ended up being sidelined with a knee injury.

Second-year Penn State coach Erica Walsh has no superstitions but she doesn't discourage her players.

"To each their own," Walsh told the Daily Collegian. "They all have their own little handshakes and footshakes and whatever it is they do. And it makes them a team. If it's just one more thing to bond them together, then go for it."

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