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WOMEN'S COLLEGE CUP: Final four preview
by Ridge Mahoney, December 5th, 2008 9:15AM

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Notre Dame (25-0-0) plays Stanford (22-1-1) at 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPNU) in the first semifinal, which is followed by North Carolina (23-1-2) against UCLA (22-0-2) at 7 p.m (ESPNU). Soccer America Senior Editor Ridge Mahoney
previews the four semifinalists.

IRISH EYES THIRD TITLE. Center Lauren Fowlkes is manning the middle for the USA in Chile, yet Notre Dame comes into the final four on a run of three straight shutouts, albeit by 1-0, 1-0 (overtime) and 2-0 scores.

Senior Kerri Hanks, the 2006 Hermann Trophy winner, is about to wrap up a prolific collegiate career. Hanks (19 goals) also leads the team in assists with 15, and Melissa Henderson (17 goals) is just one of several alternate threats.

Included in its 25 wins is a 1-0 conquest of North Carolina Sept. 5, a game decided by one of Brittany Bock's six goals this season.

NOTRE DAME
Goalkeeper

PLAYER, YEAR (G-A-P) CLUB TEAM
13 Kelsey Lysander, JR. (0.39 GAA) San Diego Surf
Defenders
12 Jessica Schuveiller, FR. (1-1-3) Dallas Sting
19 Carrie Dew, SR. (1-1-3) San Diego Surf
23 Elise Weber, SR. (1-3-5) Eclipse Select
25 Julie Scheidler, SOPH. (0-5-5) Carmel Crossfire
Midfielders
14 Courtney Rosen, JR. (3-4-10) Ohio Internationals SC
15 Rose Augustin, SOPH. (6-2-14) Ohio Internationals SC
17 Courtney Barg, FR. (2-3-7) Dallas Sting
Forwards
2 Kerri Hanks, SR. (19-15-53) Dallas Texans
6 Melissa Henderson, FR. (17-1-35) Dallas Sting
11 Michele Weissenhofer, JR. (4-7-15) Eclipse Select

Key Subs
4 Taylor Knaack, SOPH. (5-2-12) Dallas Texans
7 Amanda Clark, JR. (1-1-3) Eclipse Select
8 Haley Ford, JR. (1-1-3) Dallas Texans
10 Brittany Bock, SR. (6-9-21) Eclipse Select
20 Rebecca Mendoza, SR. (1-1-3) Dallas Sting
21 Erica Iantorno, SOPH. (5-7-17) Eclipse Select


CARDINAL RETURNS. Only once, in 1993, has Stanford reached this stage of the tournament, but in September of last year, it handed the Irish a 2-1 overtime defeat.

Kelley O'Hara started the Stanford comeback in that match by scoring the equalizer, and this season, she's one of three players to hit double digits in goals. Christian Press notched her 16th of the season to down Portland, 1-0, in the quarterfinals last Saturday to match Lindsay Taylor as the team leader. O'Hara has scored 13 goals and is tops in assists with 12.

Stanford has allowed only seven goals and with 71 scored hasn't lacked for production. Its only loss this season is a 1-0 road loss to UCLA on Halloween; its only tie came at home against UNC in September.

"I am very excited about getting to the College Cup, but our job isn't done yet," said coach Paul Radcliffe, who is in his sixth season at Stanford. "We want to win the national title."

Stanford might have had representation on the U.S. under-20s playing this week for the world championship in Chile, but O'Hara -- along with Tar Heel Casey Nogueira -- were among the pool players who didn't make the final cut, and freshmen stars Teresa Noyola and Taylor declined the opportunity. New Zealand national team left back Ali Riley and central defender Allison Falk anchor a back line.

STANFORD
Goalkeeper

PLAYER, YEAR (G-A-P) CLUB TEAM
1 Kira Maker, SOPH. (0.30 GAA) Bethesda Extreme
Defenders
3 Ali Riley, JR. (0-5-5) So Cal United
4 Alison Falk, SR. (2-1-5) Pleasanton Rage
5 Marisa Abegg, SR. (0-3-3) Lake Oswego SC
6 Alicia Jenkins, JR. (0-2-2) Pleasanton Rage
Midfielders
2 Camille Levin, FR. (6-4-16) Slammers FC
7 Teresa Noyola, FR. (6-10-22)  MVLA Mercury
22 Allison McCann, SOPH. (1-1-3) San Diego Surf
Forwards
17 Lindsay Taylor, FR. (16-3-35)  MVLA Mercury
19 Kelley O'Hara, JR. (13-12-38)  Peachtree City Lazers
23 Christine Press, SOPH. (16-11-43) Slammers FC
Key Subs
10 Kristin Stannard, JR. (5-2-12) FC Richmond Mystx
21 Hillary Heath, JR. (1-3-5) Crossfire


BRUIN POWER. UCLA has only one U-20 absentee, but Sydney Leroux is the tournament's top scorer with five goals, assuming the goal she's credited with in the 1-0 semifinal win against Germany Thursday isn't changed to an own goal.

Yet Leroux, a freshman who previously represented Canada, netted only five times for UCLA before leaving for Chile. U.S. national team striker Lauren Cheney came back from the 2008 Olympics in time to score 11 goals, second on the team behind Kristina Larsen (13), who scored off a scramble two weeks ago as the Bruins downed archrival and defending national champ USC, 1-0, in the second round. Canadian international Kara Lang adds a lot of experience in pressure situations.

The only blemishes on the Bruins' record are 0-0 ties with Brown and Santa Clara; and since that stalemate with the Broncos, UCLA has reeled off 15 straight victories, including that 6-1 demolition of Duke.

"I hate to say it, but the playoffs is where this team kind of digs it out," says coach Jillian Ellis. "Big games get them fired up. They enjoy the atmosphere."

With only five goals conceded and 19 shutouts, UCLA's defense may be its strong suit. It is limiting opponents to just under eight shots per game.

"Our defense has been stellar," says Ellis. "I don't get too much into the statistics, but we're athletic and we're organized and experienced back there. [Goalkeeper] Ashley Thompson has just been a surprise, a redshirt [senior] who hadn't played that much and she's done well when she needed to."

UCLA
Goalkeeper

PLAYER, YEAR (G-A-P) CLUB TEAM
17 Ashley Thompson, SR. (0.21 GAA)  Eagles
Defenders
3 Lauren Barnes, SOPH. (0-6-6) Arsenal FC
10 Lauren Wilmoth, JR. (3-7-13) Dallas Texans North
12 Erin Hardy, SR. (0-2-2) So Cal Blues
23 Dea Cook, JR. (1-0-2) California Cougars
Midfielders
5 Christina DiMartino, SR. (6-6-18) Albertson Express
7 McCall Zerboni, SR. (7-6-20) So Cal Blues
15 Kara Lang, JR. (5-9-19) Vancouver Whitecaps
18 Kylie Wright, SOPH. (1-1-3) So Cal Blues
Forwards
8 Lauren Cheney, JR. (11-9-31) Carmel United
20 Kristina Larsen, JR. (13-4-30) So Cal Blues
Key Subs
6  Amelia Mathis, FR. (0-0-0) Eagles
11 Caitlyn Mac Kechnie, SR. (1-2-4) So. Cal United
14 Catherine Calvert, SR. (1-1-3) So. Cal United
16 Liz Zadro, SOPH. (2-0-4) Cypress FC
22 Dana Wall, SOPH. (1-0-2) Sereno White
26 Whitney Sharpe, FR. (0-1-1) Chicago Magic


TAR HEEL TIME? North Carolina is missing U-20s Nikki Washington and Meghan Klingenberg, which deprives it of some speed on the right side of midfield and on the left flank. They also each compiled nine assists before heading to Chile.

UNC may hold a slight edge in athletic bloodlines. Casey Nogueira, whose father Victor starred in the nets for numerous indoor and outdoor professional teams, has punished opposing defenses to the tune of 23 goals. Courtney Jones - the daughter of former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl tight end Brent Jones - has scored 13. Brittani Bartok (4 goals, 7 assists) is the granddaughter of near-legendary Seton Hall coach Manfred Schellscheidt.

JC transfer Jessica MacDonald (another U-20 pool player) leads the team with 10 assists, yet six other players - including Nogueira and 2008 U.S. Olympian Tobin Heath - have registered at least eight.

NORTH CAROLINA
Goalkeeper
PLAYER, YEAR (G-A-P) CLUB TEAM
18 Ashlyn Harris, JR. (0.63) Indialantic Force
Defenders
9  Whitney Engen, JR. (0-3-3) Slammers FC
16 Rachel Givan, SOPH. (0-0-0) Mississippi United
32 Kristi Eveland, JR. (0-1-1) Dallas Texas Red North
Midfielders
17 Yael Averbuch, SR. (5-9-19) World Class
21 Allie Long, SR. (6-8-20) Albertson Express
76 Ali Hawkins, SOPH. (3-6-12) San Diego Surf
98 Tobin Heath, JR. (8-8-24) PDA Wildcats
Forwards
47 Jessica McDonald, JR. (5-0-20) Sereno White
54 Casey Nogueira, JR. (23-8-54) CASL Spartan Elite
84 Courtney Jones, FR. (13-3-29) Mustang Fury
Key Subs
00 Anna Rodenbough, SR. (0.53 GAA) CASL Spartan Elite
6  Brittani Bartok, FR. (4-7-15) World Class
11 Merritt Mathias, FR. (3-0-6) Vestavia Attack
12 Sterling Smith, JR. (0-1-1) CASL Spartan Elite
24 Rachel Wood, FR. (2-2-6) Slammers FC
30 Leslie Briggs, SOPH. (0-0-0) Dallas Texas Red North
34 Mandy Moraca, SR. (1-2-4) Pennsylvania Strikers
40 Emmalie Pfankuch, FR. (2-2-6) Colorado Nike Rush



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