[WOMEN'S PREVIEW: Friday] The 2013 women's season starts Friday with five games involving teams in the Soccer America Women's Preseason Top 25. Senior transfer Morgan Marlborough, one of the most prolific scorers in recent years, will make her debut for No. 9 Santa Clara when it takes on No. 1 North Carolina. A strong preseason gives No. 19 West Virginia loads of confidence heading into its match at No. 2 Penn State. Other games to watch: No. 5 Notre Dame-No. 25 Illinois, No.16 Texas A&M-No. 8 Dukeand No.20 Portland-No. 13 Marquette.
FRIDAY TOP 25 MATCHUPS
#1 North Carolina vs. #9 Santa Clara (in Charlottesville, Va.)
After transferring from Nebraska and sitting out the 2012 season, Morgan Marlborough will finally make her debut for Santa Clara. She had 59 goals and 28 assists in three seasons for the Huskers but will be put to the test as the Broncos open against No. 1 North Carolina, then face No. 7 Virginia on Sunday.
Listen to Marlborough and her Bronco teammates talk about their preparations -- including sauna-training -- for their two games in Charlottesville ...
#2 Penn State vs. #19 West Virginia
It was a good preseason for West Virginia as it beat Rutgers, 3-0, and No. 14 Georgetown, 1-0.
“With us having those two exhibition wins, we have some confidence moving forward,”Izzo-Brown says. “We feel really good where we’re at. We know Penn State is going to present so many different problems for us, but hopefully we’re going to have the answers and get the win Friday.”
West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown is two wins shy of 250 career victories, and the Mountaineers will have to get past Penn State and Syracuse to reach the milestone this weekend.
“This is going to be a tough weekend,” says Izzo-Brown. “What’s going to be key is for us to take care of the ball, focus on the things we’ve focused on throughout this preseason and make sure we keep our composure.”
#5 Notre Dame vs. #25 Illinois
How important is Vanessa DiBernardo, daughter of former U.S. international Angelo DiBernardo, to No. 25 Illinois?
The Illini were tied with North Carolina 1-1 in their NCAA Tournament second-round match when she was injured and left the game. By the hour mark, it was 6-1 Carolina, and Tar Heels went on to wipe out Illini, 9-2.
DiBernardo is healthy again and ready for her senior year that begins at No. 5 Notre Dame.She'll go up against former U.S. U-20 World Cup teammates Cari Roccaro and Mandy Laddish.
#16 Texas A&M vs. #8 Duke
The last time Texas A&M and Duke met, the Aggies felt pretty good after goals by Allie Baileyand Megan Majewski in the final five minutes of the first half sent them into intermission tied at 2-2.
But the Blue Devils came out, scored just 50 seconds into the second half on a goal by Mollie Pathman and went on to win, 7-2.
That was in 2011, and the Blue Devils still have the same firepower with Laura Weinberg, Kim DeCesare and Pathman capable of scoring seven goals again, but they will have to go up against one of the nation's top defenses with goalkeeper Jordan Day, defender Rachel Lenzand midfielder/defender Meghan Streight.
#20 Portland vs. #13 Marquette
Nowhere does women's soccer draw like in Portland. The Thorns led the NWSL in attendance in the first season of the women's pro league, and they were following up on the success of UP< which has left the NCAA Division I schools in attendance for eight years.
A big crowd is expected Friday as the Pilots host Big East power Marquette. Before the games, the local food vendors will up operations next to Merlo Field for the popular Bite on The Bluff. Afterwards, fans will be treated to a fireworks display.