[WCC PREVIEW] Santa Clara, winner of a national title in 2001, second in the country behind WCC rival Portland in 2002 and WCC champion on nine occasions, gets
the nod as the team to beat in the WCC in 2012.
Jerry Smith's Broncos were the overwhelming favorite in the preseason coaches' poll and placed four players on the preseason all-league team.
NSCAA All-American Julie Johnston was joined by senior captain Meleana Shim, junior Ellie Rice and sophomore Sofia Huerta on the team. Johnston and Huerta will miss the start of the season to represent the USA and Mexico, respectively, at the U-20 Women's World Cup.
"Thankfully we have great leadership in our program, including Julie, the captain of the U.S. U-20 World Cup team," said Smith. "They know what it takes to reach high goals. They understand how smart and hard-working players and teams have to work to live up to high expectations. We have developed a strong leadership program over the years and we look forward to the challenge of going after the conference championship this year."
The best player on campus may be high-scoring Nebraska transfer Morgan Marlborough, who will have to sit out 2012. Smith says she'll still be a big influence on the team.
"I have never had a captain who hasn't been with us or wasn't going to be able to play," he said. "It says a lot about her. Our backs love playing against Morgan because she is so good. She is one of the best forwards in the country bar none. To her credit, she comes every day and works her tail off."
Pepperdine, second in the WCC coaches' poll, will be led by goalkeeper Roxanne Barker, who represented South Africa at the Olympics, defender Michelle Pao and forward Lynn Williams, who made the 2011 Soccer America All-Freshman team and was recently named the 2012 W-League Rookie of the Year after scoring 10 goals in 11 games for the Pali Blues.
WCC IN BRIEF:
2011 REGULAR SEASON. 1. San Diego (7-1-0), Pepperdine (7-1-0), 3. Santa Clara (6-1-1)
2011 NCAA TOURNAMENT. San Diego lost in third round, Portland lost in second round, #3 regional seed Pepperdine and Santa Clara lost in first round.
2012 FAVORITE. Santa Clara
2012 CONTENDERS. Pepperdine, San Diego, BYU, Portland.
2012 TOP RETURNEES. M Lynn Williams, Pepperdine, soph.; M Julie Johnston, Santa Clara, jr.; M Michelle Pao, Pepperdine, jr.; D Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, BYU, sr.
2012 TOP NEWCOMERS. M Danielle Weatherholt, Santa Clara; G Andi Tostanoski, Santa Clara; M Rylee Baisden, Pepperdine; F Taylore Alderete, Portland; F Caroline Beaulne, St. Mary's, D Cloee Colohan, BYU (transfer).