August 18, 1998
LOS ANGELES - A new era is beginning in Westwood, as Todd Saldana takes over for Joy Fawcett as head coach of one of the nation's women's soccer powerhouses. In only five years, the UCLA women's soccer program has made its mark on the national soccer scene, advancing to the NCAA playoffs twice. With an impressive 19-3-0 record and a perfect 9-0 record in the Pac-10, the 1997 squad recorded UCLA's first-ever women's soccer Pac-10 championship and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Under the tutelage of Saldana, the 1998 Bruins look to continue and perhaps surpass the success of the 1997 season. UCLA's goals for the 1998 season are to defend its 1997 Pac-10 title and advance as far, if not farther, in the NCAA playoffs as last season.
The Bruins lose seven extremely talented players yet return and welcome some of the most talented young athletes in the country. While the 1998 squad will be young, this team is deeper than any other team ever to take the field for UCLA and possesses the playoff experience needed to make a run for the NCAA title.
Tied for 15th in the NSCAA/Umbro pre-season poll, UCLA's talented athletes and competitive schedule will combine to create a season that will be nothing short of exciting.
Following is a position-by-position look at the 1998 Bruins:
Forwards: Although the Bruins lose all-time leading scorer and All-American Traci Arkenberg, blending three talented returners with one of the most prolific prep goal scorers and an outstanding transfer makes the recipe for success for the Bruins this season. UCLA's forwards have more depth, and according to Saldana, "We have more variety in our offense this season. Goals and assists will come from different players and positions."
Despite coming off the bench last season, sophomore Venus James (9g,7a) was UCLA's second leading scorer. With an opportunity to break into the starting lineup this season, she will bring her speed, versatility and desire to finish to the team.
One of the top recruits at the forward position, freshman Staci Duncan comes to UCLA from the extremely talented and successful club team Central Valley Mercury. "Duncan could be the freshman that will transition best into collegiate soccer. She possesses speed, power and is an opportunistic goal scorer who creates goals for herself and others," says Saldana.
Joining the Bruins as a transfer with three years of eligibility and one year of collegiate playing experience is sophomore Tracey Milburn (5g, 5a). Local rival Pepperdine's second leading scorer in 1997, Milburn received honorable mention All-West Coast Conference honors. Milburn's excellent playmaking and passing abilities will provide UCLA with yet another scoring threat.
Tripling her 1996 point total with 15 points in 1997, senior Larisa Kiremidjian (6g, 3a) stepped up her play last season. UCLA will look to Kiremidjian to continue her athletic play and help lead the Bruins to another Pac-10 title. Although senior Liz Willemse saw little action last season, she is looking to see more playing time in 1998.
Freshman Courteney Cosso, the 1997-98 Arcadia High Female Athlete of the Year, can come in and play at the forward or midfield position. Cosso is an extremely athletic player and possesses good speed and skill. Adding depth to the forward position is freshman Sarah Lazaro. She is a powerful and versatile player who can play up front or as an outside midfielder.
Midfielders: UCLA's midfield this season is deeper than ever and is filled with the experience needed to make another run at the Pac-10 title. "Our midfielders this season possess the playmaking abilities and creativity to generate more goals and assists for us," says Saldana.
With one year of collegiate experience under her belt, 1997 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Sommer Hammoud leads the way for the Bruin midfield this season. She is an excellent playmaker and passer who has great abilities to get crosses off. The Bruins will look to Hammoud to step up her offense and put more points on the board.
Second-team All-Pac-10 selection Beth Thompson is a strong defensive presence for the Bruins in the middle. Thompson, a junior, recorded her only career goal against Portland in UCLA's historic 1-0 win to advance to the second round of the 1997 NCAA playoffs. Her strengths come in her ability to switch the point of attack and her leadership abilities on the field.
The Bruin freshmen will make a big impact at midfield in '98. Leading the rookies will be freshman Breana Boling, who was selected as one of the Top 25 high school recruits this season by Soccer America. "Breana is an extremely well-rounded player; she's the complete package. Breana is a great passer as well as a great finisher and possesses the defensive capabilities to shut down our opponents," says Saldana.
Junior Bree Edwards is an extremely feisty player who is a hard worker and is excellent at possessing the ball and could earn a starting position on the '98 squad. Edwards could also drop into the back to help out the Bruin defense.
Providing a spark for the Bruins off the bench in 1997 was senior Louise Lieberman (2g, 5a). Lieberman is ranked second on UCLA's career assist list with 13 and will look to set up more goals this season. She possesses a great knowledge of the game and is capable of scoring and creating scoring opportunities for her teammates.
Sophomore Janine Altman suffered injuries last year but is healthy and ready to play this season. Altman's speed and ability to get crosses off will be invaluable assets to the Bruin midfield. Rookie Lauren Emblem, the 1997 CIF Player of the Year, possesses a good work ethic and should definitely lead the team in effort. She is a versatile player and could play in several positions this season. Redshirt freshman Megan Quinn will likely come off the bench this season to contribute in the deep midfield. Quinn has superb heading skills and possesses the ball well.
Adding depth at the midfield position will be freshmen Vanessa Clark and Sarah Morgan. Clark, an All-CIF selection, reads the game very well, possesses great ball skills and is a creative player who has the ability to score goals. Morgan will likely come off the bench for the Bruins this season either in the midfield or as a defender.
Defenders: Despite losing two of the greatest defenders ever to play for UCLA - Rhiannon Tanaka and Tiffany Brown - UCLA returns two extremely talented players in Skylar Little and Karissa Hampton and welcomes freshman phenom Krista Boling. The strength of UCLA's defense this season will come in its youth and speed. Leading UCLA's defense will be junior Skylar Little (0g, 1a) who started all 22 games for the Bruins last season. Little is a consistent and relentless defender. Combining her speed and her knowledge of the game, opponents will have yet another obstacle to overcome.
Sophomore Karissa Hampton will likely start this season and bring her dominating physical presence and great heading abilities to the Bruin defense. Freshman Krista Boling, a Parade High School All-American, is a consistent player with tremendous skills. Like her twin sister and fellow Bruin Breana, she was selected by Soccer America as one of the Top 25 high school recruits in 1998. "Krista is an extremely intelligent player who has the ability to shut people down while guiding us offensively from the back," says Saldana. Also expected to contribute are freshmen Bethany Bogart and Courtney Arrigo. Bogart can come in and play in the midfield or in the back, and Arrigo is a physically strong player who can come off the bench and provide strength and athleticism to the game.
Goalkeepers: With another year under their belts, the UCLA goalkeepers have gained more playing and playoff experience.
UCLA's all-time career (28) and season (17) wins leader junior Lindsay Culp returns this season and will likely start. She has played all but 287 minutes in her two years as a Bruin and will bring that experience to the net. Culp plays a complete game and possesses good skills in the air. Also competing for the position will be sophomore Julie Kapcala and redshirt freshman CiCi Peterson. Kapcala is UCLA's most aggressive goalkeeper and is excellent in one-on-one situations. Peterson is coming off injuries but is consistent at goal and also possesses excellent skills.
The Schedule: Nationally ranked opponents, Pac-10 foes and a cross-town rival rank among some of the best opponents the '98 Bruins will face. The Bruins meet No. 8 Nebraska on September 18 in a game which has been touted as one of the best match-ups of the season. The Bruins welcome Bay Area and Pac-10 foes California and No. 24 Stanford to L.A. on October 16 and 18 respectively. The Bruins swept Cal and Stanford last season and will look to do the same in '98. UCLA's most heated rivalry comes on November 1 when the Bruins meet cross-town rivals USC. Last year's match-up drew the biggest crowd ever to watch a Bruin home game (2,373) and was called the biggest women's soccer game ever played in Southern California. Last year's game ultimately decided the Pac-10 race, and this season, the game could hold the same Pac-10 and playoff implications. "Every game will be a tough one this season. As the Pac-10 champions, every team will be well prepared to play us," says Saldana.
With marked improvements in the talent of the Pac-10 and some great match-ups with local opponents, 1998 promises to be an exciting year for UCLA.