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Soccer teams seek bounceback years

For most teams, an overtime loss in the NCAA semifinals to the eventual champions would make for a successful end to the season. Most teams, however, aren’t like Stanford women’s soccer. The Cardinal has appeared in five straight NCAA College Cups dating back to 2008, and after winning the national championship in 2011, falling short in 2012 was a tough pill to swallow.

The Stanford women plan to return with a vengeance in 2013, with their eyes still set on the ultimate prize. The Cardinal was ranked second in the original preseason poll, only behind perpetual rival North Carolina. Through the first six games, the team has posted a 5-0-1 record, including a double-overtime win over Boston College to open the season. The Cardinal tied perennial power Portland 1-1 on Aug. 31.

(Stanford Daily File Photo)

Senior midfielder JJ Koval is among many impact players for the men’s soccer squad as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2012. Koval has already scored two goals in 2013. (AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)

The team has a new identity this season, as 2012 captains and All-Americans Alina Garciamendez, Mariah Nogueira and Rachel Quon—who had held down the back third of the field for four years—have all departed.

The Cardinal’s newly named captains—junior Alex Doll and seniors Emily Oliver, Kendall Romine and Courtney Verloo—will be called upon to fill the leadership void this season. The team will also look to junior Chioma Ubogagu and senior Sydney Payne, who each tallied five goals last season, to continue adding firepower to the Cardinal attack.

Furthermore, for Stanford, it’s always about reloading rather than rebuilding. One of this year’s additions includes transfer Taylor Uhl, who was the NCAA’s leading scorer as a member of the Minnesota Gophers last year. Uhl, a junior, has already demonstrated her prolific scoring touch by scoring six goals in the Cardinal’s first five games.

“It’s going to be a really fun and exciting attack this year,” Verloo told GoStanford.com. “The offense is so talented in different areas. I think there will be goals from the forwards, from the midfielders, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some defenders got in.”

Head coach Paul Ratcliffe also brought in a highly regarded class of eight freshmen, five of whom have already recorded starts during the early part of the team’s season.

The most intriguing prospect is Jane Campbell, who was the youngest goalkeeper ever called into a full United States national team camp. However, the Cardinal already has one of the best goalkeepers in the nation in Oliver, who has started 58 games over her first three years at Stanford, tallying 26 shutouts and a 0.34 goals against average.

“We have a great group of keepers,” Ratcliffe told GoStanford.com. “Whichever one is in form for that week and steps in between the goal posts is going to do an amazing job for us. It’s still up in the air. No one has established anything and said, ‘I’m going to start every game.’”

Oliver and Campbell have split the first six games evenly (each starting three), but the way Ratcliffe manages his talented stable of keepers will be worth watching as the season progresses.

Stanford will face St. Mary’s on Sept. 19 before rounding out non-conference play against Santa Clara on Sept. 22. The Cardinal opens its Pac-12 season at Colorado on Sept. 28.

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The men’s team is also looking to bounce back from a disappointing finish in 2012. Although the Cardinal capped off its season with a dominating 6-1 win over Cal, it wasn’t enough to earn the team a berth in the NCAA tournament after a rollercoaster season.

The primary objective for second-year head coach Jeremy Gunn will be to replace the scoring production of graduated forward Adam Jahn, who is currently playing with the San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS.

Junior Zach Batteer (6 goals in 2012) is the team’s leading returning scorer, and he will be joined in the attack by reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Aaron Kovar (3 goals) and Senior Class Award finalist JJ Koval (2 goals).

“Players like JJ and Zach are great examples of what we’ve been looking for as progress in the program,” Gunn told GoStanford.com, noting that both players became dangerous finishers through their work over the winter and spring.

Junior Drew Hutchins returns to the net for the Cardinal after tallying five shutouts last year. He will lead a back line that includes returning starters senior Tyler Conklin, junior Jimmy Callinan and sophomore Brandon Vincent.

“What’s really impressive about this group is that there are so many future leaders,” Gunn told GoStanford.com. “I think it probably ties into the whole philosophy at a place like Stanford where you’ve got people who want to be doing rather than watching.”

Stanford is also working in a group of eight impressive freshmen from all over the country. Forward Jordan Morris and defender Brian Nana-Sinkam have both started three games for the Cardinal while forward Mark Verso has also seen time.

The Cardinal has seen solid results in early tests so far this year. Stanford opened its season with a 3-3 tie against No. 2 Maryland in a match that Stanford led through 85 minutes before the Terrapins recorded a late equalizer. The Cardinal fell to No. 17 Georgetown before bouncing back with a 1-0 win over Bay Area rival Santa Clara and a 2-1 victory against Grand Canyon.

Batteer and Koval have picked up right where they left off by each tallying two goals through the Cardinal’s first four games. Stanford has scored five goals in four games, although they were aided by an own goal in the Maryland game.

Stanford will need to continue building its postseason resume before it begins Pac-12 play on Oct. 3 against Washington—last season, the team’s inconsistent results early in the season kept them out of the tournament despite finishing third in the Pac-12.

“As we move forward, the goals are going to be to always be in contention to win the Pac-12—other teams have been very successful over the past and it’s going to be tough to dislodge them, but a very realistic goal is that we can do that,” Gunn told GoStanford.com. “Moving forward from that, we want to be in the national tournament every year and ultimately we want to become the best program in the nation. We want to be competing for national championships as much as everyone else at this university does.”

Contact Jana Persky at jpersky ‘at’ stanford.edu.