[TOP 5 PREVIEW] Stanford was unbeaten and untied going into the 2009 Women's College Cup final it lost to North Carolina. Last year, the Cardinal was undefeated in 25 games going into the College Cup it lost Notre Dame. But the third time should be a charm for Stanford, which is loaded with the return of four All-Americans: midfielders Teresa Noyolaand Mariah Nogueira, forward Lindsay Taylor and joker Courtney Verloo.
But that only scratches the surface of what is one of the most talented women's college teams assembled in recent years.
Coach Paul Ratcliffe also welcomes back central defender Alina Garciamendez, who spent the summer playing with Noyola for Mexico at the Women's World Cup, and outside back Rachel Quon, was an all-Pac-10 pick her first two seasons. Camille Levin, who can play any field position, was named to the 2010 All-College Cup team.
Goalie Emily Oliver's goals-against average of 0.31 as freshman was the second-best mark in school history. Another sophomore, sophomore Sydney Payne, is fresh from the U.S. under-20 national team camp.
Ratcliffe's embarrassment of riches includes forwards Alex Doll and Chioma Ubogagu, two of the top freshmen in the country.
The big loss, of course, is 2010 Player of the Year Cristen Press. Just as she picked up the scoring load for 2009 Player of the Year Kelley O'Hara, matching her total of 26 goals, who will fill Press's shoes in 2011? That's the burning question fans have on the Farm as the 2011 season
The logical choice is Taylor, now a senior. She scored 16 goals in 2008, struggled with illness in 2009 when she never played a full 90 minutes but rebounded with 11 goals, second on the team, as a junior in 2010.
Verloo could return to the frontline, though, if redshirt freshman Kendall Romine, who missed the past two seasons because leg injuries, breaks into the backline.
Noyola, Stanford's first two-time first-team All-America since goalie Nicole Barnhartin 2002 and 2004, will again handle the playmaking and is confident in the abilities of her teammates.
"Whoever ends up playing on the front line is going to have big shoes to fill," Noyola said. "But we have a lot of players that can step in and share in that role. It's a matter of coming together and getting the chemistry right."
The Cardinal will certainly be tested. Seven of its nine non-conference opponents played in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, and six Pac-10 foes also made the 64-team field.
Aug. 19 vs. Penn State, 7:00 p.m. PT
Aug. 21 vs. Pacific, 1:00 p.m. PT
Aug. 26 at Maryland, 4:00 p.m. PT
Aug. 28 at Georgetown, 10:00 a.m. PT
Sept. 4 vs. Northwestern, 12:00 p.m. PT
Stanford Nike Invitational
Sept. 9 vs. Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. PT
Sept. 11 vs. UC Irvine, 1:00 p.m. PT
Sept. 15 at Portland, 7:00 p.m. PT
Sept. 18 at Santa Clara, 8:00 p.m. PT
Sept. 24 vs. Arizona *, 7:00 p.m. PT
Sept. 30 at Washington State *, 3:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 2 at Washington *, 12:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 7 vs. USC *, 7:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 9 vs. UCLA *, 1:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 14 at Arizona State *, 7:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 21 vs. Utah *, 7:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 23 vs. Colorado *, 1:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 28 at Oregon State *, 7:00 p.m. PT
Oct. 30 at Oregon *, 1:00 p.m. PT
Nov. 5 vs. California *, 7:00 p.m. PT