[PAC-12 PREVIEW] Despite losing a trio of players on the 2011 Soccer America MVPs first team -- Cam Levin, Teresa Noyola and Player of the Year Lindsay Taylor -- defending national champion Stanford still has plenty to work with,
making the Cardinal the team to beat in the Pac-12, ahead of UCLA, which returns 10 of 11 starters from a team that lost just one match in 2011.
Stanford is seeking its fourth consecutive Pac-12 title and returns seven starters, including All-America goalkeeper Emily Oliver, defender Alina Garciamendez, another member of the 2011 Soccer America MVPs, and 2011 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Chioma Ubogagu.
UCLA returns three of the nation's top sophomores in Abigail Dahlkemper, Samantha Mewis and Sarah Killion, as well as Rosie White (New Zealand) and Chelsea Stewart (Canada), who played in the Olympics.
Mewis and Killion will miss the start of the 2012 season to represent the USA at the Under-20 Women's World Cup in Japan. Also playing for the USA will be Ubogagu.
White will play for New Zealand, while Ariana Martinez, who has transferred from UCLA to Cal, will play for Mexico.
Other Pac-12 players headed to Japan: Arizona's Candice Osei-Agyemang (Ghana), Oregon State's Jenna Richardson (Canada) and Washington State's Nicole Setterlund (Canada).
Two new coaches will be on the sidelines in 2012.
Auburn associate coach Keidane McAlpine has taken over at Washington State. Matt Potter's success with the Cougars made him an attractive candidate, and he was named the head coach at Oklahoma.
Former Wyoming coach Danny Sanchez takes over for veteran coach Bill Hempen, who was ousted at Colorado.
PAC-12 IN BRIEF:
2011 REGULAR SEASON. 1. Stanford (11-0-0), 2. UCLA (8-1-2), 3. Oregon State (7-3-1).
2011 NCAA TOURNAMENT. Stanford won NCAA Division I championship, California, UCLA and Washington State lost in second round, Oregon State lost in first round.
2012 FAVORITE. Stanford.
2012 CONTENDERS. UCLA, California, Oregon State.
2012 CREAM OF THE CROP. D Alina Garciamendez, Stanford, Jr.; D Abigail Dahlkemper, UCLA, soph.; G Emily Oliver, Stanford, jr.; M Samantha Mewis, UCLA, soph.; F Chelsea Buckland, Oregon State, jr.; F Chioma Ubogagu, Stanford, soph.
2012 TOP NEWCOMERS. D Laura Liedle, Stanford; M Isabel Farrell, Washington; F Taylor Smith, UCLA; F Katlyn Johnson, USC; D Maya Theuer, Stanford; M Kate Bettinger, Stanford; D Ariana Martinez, California (transfer); D Nina Frausing Pedersen, California (transfer).
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