Waves Women's Soccer Looks to Defend WCC Title as They Forge Their Own Path in 2012
Pepperdine opens the 2012 season on Friday against San Diego at Tari Frahm Rokus Field
Aug. 14, 2012
MALIBU, Calif. - Coming off of arguably the best women's soccer season in school history, the 2012 team has the opportunity to build on that success and become Pepperdine's first repeat West Coast Conference champion in soccer but also begins the season with a sense of unfinished business when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
Entering his 15th season, head coach Tim Ward said, "Our goals this season are to become the first team ever to repeat as WCC champions and return to the NCAA Tournament and go further than last year--in fact, further than we have ever gone. Each season is independent of the season that came before, and we are ready to make our own mark."
The Waves lost three key starting senior leaders to graduation from last year's team in Laura Cole (Whittier, Calif./La Habra HS), Myriah Stockman (Sandy, Utah/Brighton HS) and Karissa Garcia (Roseville, Calif./Oakmont HS). However, they return 20 student-athletes, including the 2011 WCC Freshman of the Year in Lynn Williams (Fresno, Calif./Bullard HS) and goalkeeper Roxanne Barker (Irvine, Calif./Woodbridge HS), fresh off the Olympics with the South African National Team.
"Even though we only lost three players, it feels to us like a completely different team. It definitely has a different, different feel. With Laura Cole, Myriah Stockman and Karissa Garcia having graduated, obviously tremendous soccer players who were reliable and played many minutes for us, that leaves us with a significant gap," Ward explained.
"We are looking to fill those spaces. One of the things that made the team so great last year is that we basically had the same lineup. We had a lot of durability. Consistency for any team is highly important. This team is very talented. It is a different team in terms of where our strengths and weaknesses are, but I think we are capable of equal, if not better things," Ward explained.
The Waves return all but one player from last season's defensive unit that held the competition to a season-low 0.57 goals against average.
Barker returns to anchor the defense in goal and comes into this season with the experience of playing on the national stage as an Olympian.
"Roxanne is an Olympian. She has had experiences over the past six months that few athletes will ever have in a lifetime," Ward said. "We have no doubt that that experience will carry over to our season. She has always been a great goalkeeper, but now she is literally world class. She has a great international career ahead of her, but before that, we look forward to her having a great senior year."
Kelsea Smith (Camarillo, Calif./Oaks Christian), a fifth year senior, will be "the anchor of the back row," according to Ward. Smith brings a lot of experience to the team and will be looked to as a leader for this year's club. She will be joined by junior Kristin DeGrandmont (Portland, Ore./Jesuit HS), who has also logged a lot of minutes in defense during her career.
As a wide defender, junior Michelle Pao (Cupertino, Calif./Monta Vista HS), who was just recently named to the 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy Award watch list, will shut down attacks on the outside as well as mount attacks out of the back.
On Pao, a 2011 NSCAA All-American second teamer, Ward said, "Pao is coming off a great summer with the Pali Blues and I think she gained so much match experience and sharpened some aspects of her game."
One hole the Waves will have to fill this season is wide defensive back, due to the graduation of Stockman. According to Ward, the Waves have a few different options, including redshirt freshman Courtney Assumma (Temecula, Calif./Temecula Valley HS), Jackie Pedrazza (Cupertino, Calif./Monta Vista HS), Nikki McKee (Walnut, Calif./Walnut HS) and Micaela Cervantes (San Diego, Calif./Mission Bay HS).
"I think that in the back, I believe our back row could do a really good job. We will still be able to mount attacks out of the back through Michelle Pao, but on the other side we may get more of a stay at home defender, that may help us to be even more water tight defensively," said Ward.
"Courtney Assumma had an amazing spring and she is very capable," Ward explained. "Jackie Pedrazza looked very strong in the spring as well. Nikki McKee is super athletic, competitive and is a competent player. Micaela Cervantes played as a wide back in the spring and was very solid in the position."
Another piece for the defense is redshirt freshman Lisa Santroch (Shoreline, Wash./Shorewood HS). Santroch, one of the most athletic players on the squad, has a knack for stepping in and destroying any rhythm teams may get. She has the potential to play key roles for the Waves on defense this season as well.
In the midfield, the Waves lost two of three reliable midfielders in Cole and Garcia. However, the Waves do return Katie Gallanes (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza HS) and Ana Pontes (Houston, Texas/Clear Lake HS), both of whom logged key minutes for the Waves in 2011.
On the midfield, Ward explained, "Pontes and Gallanes are very impactful players in the central midfield. Cervantes can also play any of the midfield positions. She is very competent and hard working. Pontes, Callie Payetta (Huntington Beach, Calif./Huntington Beach HS), Jennifer Karson (Frazier Park, Calif./Frazier Mountain HS), and Katie Rivers (Vancouver, Wash./Mountain View HS) will be senior midfielders for the Waves. All four seniors look poised to have their best seasons ever for the Waves. Rivers is a natural final passer of the ball and can deliver an excellent ball. She has a lot of the tools to be a great central midfielder in our system. Karson is free kick specialist and in the final third she has great soccer savvy. Payetta is a natural goal scorer and has come back stronger than ever." Waves fans will see sophomore Kristine Hilliard (North Ogden, Utah/Weber HS) in the midfield in 2012 as she is learning to play transitional center midfield.
"She is an excellent runner, very bright and a natural leader. She is gaining experience in the position, as she appeared most at forward last season," Ward said.
At forward, the Waves return a strong core of goal scorers in Williams, Anisa Guajardo (Clovis, Calif./Buchanan HS), Ally Holtz (Honolulu, Hawai'i/Punahou School) and Amanda LeCave (Windsor, Calif./Windsor HS). This group shared the bulk of the minutes at forward in 2011, and look for much of the same in 2012.
Williams had a stellar freshman season, collecting WCC Freshman of the Year honors, and over the summer played for the Pali Blues, where she was named W-League Rookie of the Year after scoring 10 goals in 11 games.
A senior, Guajardo is the team's returning leading goal scorer. She tallied nine goals and added four assists. Returning forwards account for 19 goals scored last season.
On the forwards, Ward said, "What can I say about Lynn Williams. She is an excellent talent and we are looking for her to have an excellent season. Guajardo is a tremendous goal scorer and is natural in front of the net. LeCave is very hardworking, crafty, deceptive striker. Ally Holtz is ridiculously talented and we are expecting big things out of her."
Redshirt freshman Bri Lariviere (Camarillo, Calif./Camarillo HS) is set to also contribute this season as a forward. She scored three goals in the spring and brings to the squad a lethal finishing ability.
Ward and his staff of associate head coach Twila Kaufman in her ninth season and fifth-year assistant coach Jennifer Brewer put together an outstanding freshman class that will look to make an impact this season.
Erinn Middo (Redondo Beach, Calif./Redondo Union HS) is set to be the backup goalkeeper for Barker. On Middo, Ward said, "She has great energy, intelligence, work ethic. There are some areas in her game that she will continue to get better at, but she is very coachable. I think she has a very bright future."
Mandy Davis (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley HS), a defender, is poised to make an impact right away and is an option for Ward and his staff to start as an outside defender.
"Physically she is a strong, young woman and isn't going to have an issue with the physicality of the college game," Ward said. "She is also very good in the air as she reads the ball well."
Additions at midfield include Kelsey Blosser (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Oaks Christian) and Allyn Brown (Lake Arrowhead, Calif./Rim of the World HS). Both freshmen have a natural understanding of the game.
At forward, Rylee Baisden (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza HS), Taylor Vargo (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos HS) and Bianca Deardorff (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian HS) will join an already talented group. Baisden is an explosive player, while Vargo is gifted as a great playmaker. Deardorff brings an excellent work ethic and a deceptive, efficient finishing ability.
This year's team is led by an outstanding group of seven seniors. According to Ward, the senior group really emerged this spring and they are "Forging their own path as each girl is stepping up to lead in her own way."
Ward greatly values senior leadership, as he explained, "Your team goes the way your senior leadership goes. One or two seniors need to show the way for the rest of the group and I think this year's group is more than ready to do that."
That senior leadership will be needed to guide the team through a tough schedule, which includes perennial national powers UCLA and Boston College on the road.
"We want to test ourselves against the best in the country," Ward said. "Last year, I am proud to say a lot of games went our way. We know that only happens if you put yourself out there against those teams and if you work hard and work smart."
"I think our schedule this year is deceptively vicious. I think everyone on our schedule could beat anybody in the country on any given day. Some teams may not have the national recognition that they deserve, but I put them on the schedule because I trust those coaches to beat anybody. If we show up and we bring our very best, I think we can beat anybody in the country. I want a schedule that challenges and grows our team. We want to play the best in the country every year. That excites me as a coach and excites our players."
Following a stellar season, the Waves know the expectations are high, as they are ranked No. 10 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll. The team is ready to answer the bell this year and hope to soar higher than ever before.
"We want to start becoming a dynasty in our conference. We feel like it's our time," Ward said. "Every day we show up and our goal is to put more numbers on our fence through more WCC titles and more NCAA appearances. We know that takes dedication and hard work. That is what we are about."