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
, 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.
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.