Women's Soccer Searches for Third Straight Pac-10 Title

Aug. 20, 1999

In just six years, the UCLA women's soccer program has established itself as one of the nation's powerhouses, advancing to the NCAA playoffs three times and securing the Pac-10 championship crown twice. With an impressive 17-4-1 record and a 7-2-0 record in the Pac-10, the 1998 squad claimed the Pac-10 championship for the second consecutive year and advanced to the second round of NCAA playoffs. Under the leadership of new head coach Jillian Ellis, who replaces Todd Salda-a, the 1999 Bruins look to continue and even surpass last season's success.

This season, the two-time defending Pac-10 champion Bruins have their sights set on claiming the conference title once again and advancing even further into the NCAA playoffs than last year. With ten returning starters, including All-Far West selections Skylar Little, Staci Duncan, Lindsay Culp and Venus James, the Bruins have a strong chance of achieving these goals. A strong competitive drive coupled with the necessary experience assures that UCLA will once again prove a threatening force. Despite two head coaching changes in the past two years, the 1999 Bruins possess the talent and the playoff experience necessary to contend for the NCAA title.

"Even with the coaching change, I don't think we'll be in danger of taking a step backward," assistant coach Lisa Shattuck explains. "I am confident that Coach Ellis can step in and that the girls will continue to work hard and step up their game."

Talented athletes combined with a competitive schedule ensure that UCLA, which is ranked 16th in the NSCAA/Umbro pre-season poll, will surely be an exciting team to follow. Following is a position-by-position look at the 1999 Bruins:

With three talented returners, one proficient prep star and two anxious players ready for action, the Bruin forwards possess depth and variety in their offense.

Heading the list of forwards is sophomore Staci Duncan, who earned NSCAA/Umbro All-Far West second team honors. Duncan, a returning starter, made an immediate impact on the team last year. The squad's leading scorer, she tallied 31 points on 11 goals and nine assists in 1998. Her speed, power and agility make her a consistent threat to opposing teams. With one year of collegiate experience behind her, Duncan figures to be one of the leaders on the squad.

"Now that Staci isn't a freshman anymore, I think that she will step-up her leadership role and lead vocally as well as by example," Shattuck says. "She has worked really hard and she will definitely blossom even more this year."

Junior Venus James, who earned All-Pac-10 second team accolades, adds much experience to the squad. A member of the U.S. Women's Under-21 National team, she played in all 22 games last season and started in 14 of them. Last year she was the third-leading scorer on the team with 21 points on 10 goals and one assist. James, who may be called upon to play in the outside midfield this year, brings tremendous speed and versatility to the squad. "

Venus is good at beating players one-on-one," Shattuck says. "Her shot has improved since last year, and she is getting stronger and stronger."

One of the top recruits at the forward position, freshman Jessica Winton has already gained national recognition. An NSCAA All-American, Winton has the athletic ability to establish a name for herself at the collegiate level.

"She works hard to score the goals, and she?s very hungry," Shattuck says. "She's anxious to play."

Adding depth to the forward position is junior Tracey Milburn. A first-team All-Pac-10 selection, Milburn was the second leading scorer on the team (11g, 3a). Although recovering from knee surgery, Milburn is expected to contribute significantly to this year's squad. Her excellent playmaking and passing abilities provide the Bruins with yet another scoring threat.

Sophomore Courteney Cosso, an athletic player who possesses good speed and skill, will be expected to play at either the forward or midfield position this year. Cosso, who saw limited minutes coming off the bench last season, will be looking to see more playing time in 1999.

Rounding off the list of forwards is sophomore Sarah Lazaro. Although she did not play last season, she is a powerful and versatile player who can also play up front or as an outside midfielder.

Junior transfer Stephanie Rigamat, who comes to UCLA after having competed at UC Irvine for two years, will redshirt the ?99 season.

Although the Bruins lose starter Sommer Hammoud, who earned NSCAA All-Far West honors in 1998, UCLA's midfield has tremendous depth and experience.

Sophomore returning starter Breana Boling, who received second-team Pac-10 acclaim in 1998, is a strong and very solid player. Her excellent shot and outstanding playmaking abilities will make her a major contributor on this year's team.

"Breana will definitely play a key role on the team this year," Shattuck says.

Another returning starter, sophomore Vannessa Clark, will be looked upon to help guide the Bruins. A central midfielder, she has excellent passing abilities and can switch the attack well.

Rookie Tracey Winzen, the 1998 All-South Coast League Player of the Year, is also expected to make a big impact at the midfield. Although recovering from an ACL surgery, she has made a tremendous comeback. Her strengths lie in her speed, power and competitiveness.

"Tracey has a bright future here at UCLA," Shattuck says. "She has really demonstrated that she has what it takes to make it as a Division I player."

Senior Bree Edwards delivers quickness and stamina to the midfield. She has a strong work ethic and is excellent at possessing the ball.

Senior Beth Thompson brings even more depth to the midfield. A strong defensive presence for the Bruins in the middle, her strengths lie in her ability to switch the point of attack and her leadership abilities on the field.

Coming off the bench in 1998 was sophomore Lauren Emblem. Emblem, who played in 19 of UCLA's 22 games last season, possesses versatility and a strong work ethic. She may be expected to play a bigger role on this year's squad.

Junior Janine Altman suffered injuries last year but is steadily recovering. Altman's quickness and ability to get crosses off will be invaluable assets to the Bruin midfield.

Junior Rochelle Ouchi brings even more athleticism to the '99 squad. Her excellent ball handling skills and her strong understanding of the game will be needed in the midfield.

Adding even more depth at the midfield position will be redshirt freshman Sarah Morgan. Morgan will likely come off the bench for the Bruins this season either in the midfield or as a defender.

The Bruin defense returns three extremely talented players in Skylar Little, Karissa Hampton and Krista Boling. The strength of UCLA's defense this season will come in its speed and experience.

Leading UCLA's defense will be senior captain Skylar Little, who started all 22 games for the Bruins last season. Little, who earned first-team All-Far West accolades, is a consistent and relentless defender. A smart player and great passer, she makes few mistakes and seems to thrive off competition. Combining her speed and her knowledge of the game, opponents will have yet another obstacle to overcome.

"She's composed, she's mentally tough, she's extremely focused and she's extremely fit," Shattuck says. "She knows the game very well and because this is her last year she will really have the determination to come up big this year." Another solid player who makes few mistakes is junior Karissa Hampton. A returning starter, she possesses the rare combination of size, speed and mobility. Her dominating physical presence and her quickness make her a difficult defender to get past.

"Karissa matches up with big forwards because of her size, and since she is so quick she really just dominates out there on the field," Shattuck says. Sophomore Krista Boling is a strong player with great passing abilities and a good knowledge of the game. "She is great at one on one defense, and she is one of the players who can start the attack from the back and really make things happen," Shattuck says.

Sophomore Bethany Bogart is also expected to play a big role on defense. She suffered a few injuries last season but is healthy now and eager to play this season. Bogart's speed, height and consistency will be needed to help in the team's efforts.

Also expected to contribute are redshirt freshman Courtney Arrigo, freshman Mary Stuart and freshman Brooke Flamson. Arrigo is a physically strong player who can come off the bench and provide strength and athleticism to the game. Stuart, an All-CIF selection, will add even more depth to the defense. Flamson, a versatile player who may be called upon to play in the midfield, is a consistent player with good size and passing abilities.

UCLA returns two experienced goalkeepers in Lindsay Culp and CiCi Peterson and welcomes two talented freshmen in Emily Koch and Katie Greenwood.

UCLA's all-time career (26.5) and season (10) shutouts leader senior Lindsay Culp returns this season and will likely start. Her incredible 0.82 goals against average and her 81 saves last season earned her NSCAA third-team All-Far West acclaim. Culp has played all but 348 minutes in her three years as a Bruin and will bring that experience to the net. Culp plays a complete game and possesses good skills in the air.

With one year of collegiate playing time behind her, redshirt sophomore CiCi Peterson is expected to step up this season and play a bigger role on the team. She is consistent at goal and possesses excellent skills.

Also competing for the position is rookie Katie Greenwood. Greenwood, an All-CIF selection, recorded 58 career shutouts and registered a career-best 0.53 GAA as a junior in high school.

Freshman Emily Koch, a 1998 NSCAA All-American and first-team All-CIF selection, injured her back in the off-season and may have surgery. Although Koch may not be able to play this year, she is a highly touted recruit who led her high school to the 1998 CIF Championships and set numerous school records.

The Schedule:
UCLA women's soccer will encounter perhaps one of the most challenging schedules to date. A defending national champion, nationally ranked competitors and Pac-10 foes rank among some of the top opponents the '99 Bruins will confront.

The Bruins meet the defending national champion Florida Gators on September 4 at the USC Tournament and then face top-ranked North Carolina on October 1 at the University of San Diego Tournament.

Conference opponents will also pose a rigorous challenge to the Bruins, who look to capture the Pac-10 crown for the third consecutive year. Last year, the Bruins landed in a three-way tie with California and USC. With such a competitive conference, every game could hold Pac-10 and playoff implications.

The Bruins will travel to the Bay Area to play Pac-10 foes No. 21 Stanford and California on October 22 and 24 respectively. The Bruins defeated Stanford last season but lost to California in double overtime. UCLA's most heated rivalry comes on November 7 when the Bruins host cross-town rival USC. Last year?s game at the L.A. Coliseum drew a season-high 1,057. When the Bruins last hosted the Trojans in 1997, the match-up drew the biggest crowd ever to watch a Bruin home game (2,373) and it was hailed the biggest women's soccer game ever played in Southern California.

"This year's schedule is definitely more difficult than last year's but our team is more experienced," Shattuck says. "We had five freshmen who started last year, and now that they have one year of experience they know what to expect. Our team is ready to face a challenge and we are anxious to start the season."

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