Santa Clara coach Jerry Smith may not have gotten three of the top players out of the West, but he wouldn't trade the recruiting class he did get.
That's because Smith landed the best classes in the country, probably third after Notre Dame and North Carolina.
With the return of U.S. national team midfielder Jen Lalor from a red-shirt year and defender Sara Barnett from injury and the loss of only one senior starter, Santa Clara could take a page from the 1994 Portland team.
The Pilots were hosting the final four that year, and after getting Tiffeny Milbrett back from a red-shirt year, they played their way to the final four.
Santa Clara -- host of the '96 women's final four -- welcomes a group headed by Mandy Clemens, whom many call the best forward coming out of the West. Clemens, says Smith, is a fearless goalscorer who can score with either foot and is good in the air.
Clemens and Whitney Hollis should combine with returning striker Mikka Hansen to give the Broncos one of the most potent frontlines in the country, while Kiley Bivens, Jacqui Little and Nikki Serlenga will join Lalor and Erin Martinez in a crowded midfield.
"This is definitely our best recruiting class," said Smith. "This not only makes us deep and talented for next season, it gives us a core of players for the next four years."
The players Smith didn't get? Lorrie Fair -- who's currently fighting for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team at U.S. training camp in Florida -- is going to North Carolina along with Rebekah McDowell, while goalkeeper Lakeysia Beene is headed to Notre Dame. Fair is regarded by many as the top recruit in the country, with McDowell and Beene not too far behind.
"She's the complete package," Portland and U.S. women's under-20 coach Clive Charles said of Fair. "She's a footballer."
A speedy, versatile player, Fair and McDowell -- a dynamic central midfielder who, like Fair, is an attacking player who gets back well on defense -- should help strengthen the Tar Heels' midfield.
Beene, the best prep goalkeeper in the nation, will likely be an understudy to senior-to-be Jen Renola next season.
"Certainly she has the ability to step in and play at any level," said Petrucelli. "She's very athletic. She's a real leader right from the start. But I think 'Keysia is our goalkeeper for the future."
Fair's twin sister, Ronnie, is headed to Stanford. Not as heralded as Lorrie, Ronnie has made a name for herself with her quickness and skillful, composed play, mostly at sweeper.
Another sibling, Kim Daws, the younger sister of Notre Dame star Cindy, is going to Duke, where the central midfielder should help a team losing several seniors from its 1995 squad.
by Soccer America Associate Editor Dean Caparaz
|G||Lakeysia Beene||Gold River, Calif.||Notre Dame|
|Quick, athletic, best keeper in the country|
|D||Ronnie Fair||Los Altos, Calif.||Stanford|
|Skillful, steady defender, goes forward well|
|M||Kiley Bivens||Claremont, Calif.||Santa Clara|
|Ball winner, can play in the back|
|M||Kim Daws||Northridge, Calif.||Duke|
|Skillful midfield general, high work rate|
|M||Lorrie Fair||Los Altos, Calif.||North Carolina|
|Fast, skillful, can play anywhere on the field|
|M||Jacqui Little||Pacific Palisades, Calif.||Santa Clara|
|Fast, explosive, plays well on both sides|
|M||Rebekah McDowell||Lakewood, Colo.||North Carolina|
|Playmaker, great work rate, tough defensively|
|M||Nikki Serlenga||Escondido, Calif.||Santa Clara|
|Heady attacking player, great shot|
|F||Mandy Clemens||San Diego, Calif.||Santa Clara|
|Good at combination play, West's top striker|
|F||Regina Holan||Los Altos, Calif.||Portland|
|Fast, powerful 1-v-1 artist, good finisher|
|F||Whitney Hollis||Littleton, Colo.||Santa Clara|
|Good target player, active, aggressive|