2. FOCUS: No. 1 UCLA's depth will be tested


UCLA was ranked No. 1 in the Soccer America Preseason Women's Top 25, in part because of its considerable depth, but the Bruins were depleted when they headed to No. 8 Penn State for Friday's opener at the Penn State Invitational.

Depth helped UCLA reach the Women's College Cup final the last two years. "Our philosophy," Bruin coach Jillian Ellis told the Los Angeles Daily News, "is that if we can maximize every player on our roster, it will just keep pushing us higher."

But the Bruins, who are ranked No. 1 by Soccer America for the first time, are missing five players in Russia for the U-20 Women's World Championship: Danesha Adams, Erin Hardy, Tina DiMartino, Val Henderson and freshman Lauren Cheney.

Ellis, who has guided UCLA to three straight final four appearances and four in the last six years, could have available as few as only two starters from the team that lost to Portland, 4-0, in last year's Women's College Cup final. Iris Mora and Jill Oakes graduated, Canada star Kara Lang was lost for the year with a knee injury, and Mary Castelanelli and McCall Zerboni were among several returnees battling injuries in preseason. That left only defender Bristyn Davis and midfielder Stacey Lindstrom, both seniors, certain for the opener against Penn State.

UCLA's 2006 freshman class will need to make an immediate impact. In addition to Cheney, the Bruins feature several players with extensive international experience, including Lauren Wilmoth and Lauren Switzer, who will likely start in the back. Indiana transfer Molly Kruger could see a lot of playing time in midfield.

VIDEO: UCLA coach Jillian Ellis on the No. 1 Bruins

WOMEN'S ATTRACTIONS

" No. 2 Portland travels to Florida for games against No. 24 Florida Friday and No. 5 Florida State Sunday.
" No. 3 North Carolina opens at No. 9 Texas A&M before heading to Dallas to face Conference-USA favorite SMU Sunday.
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