Los Angeles Soccer: Lynn Williams

LOCALS: Santa Clarita claims playoff berth

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
4:59
PM PT

The game of the year for minor league soccer around these parts produced an unexpected result amid huge momentum swings and left one Southern California club joyous and another heartbroken.

Tyler Coombes' 14th goal of the season lifted FC Santa Clarita, a first-year club born from the ruins of the Lancaster-based Rattlers, past the previously unbeaten San Diego Flash to claim the second Southern Conference berth for the National Premier Soccer League's Western Division playoffs.

Coombes (Palmdale/Palmdale HS and Cal State L.A.) scored twice as the Storm (8-3-3) posted a 4-3 victory Sunday at Canyon High School in Canyon Country, rallying for the winning goal in the 89th minute after the Flash (11-1-2) overcame a three-goal deficit. Sergio Valle Ortiz's second goal of the evening pulled San Diego just a minute before Coombes provided the victory.

The goal was a must -- a draw would have given the No. 2 spot to the Fullerton Rangers (8-4-2), whose 4-0 rout of San Diego Boca in Santa Ana, fueled on goals by brothers Andre and Diego Turoldo (both Torrance/North Torrance HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills), wrapped up about an hour before Coombes struck.

Martin Galvan scored the first goal and assisted two more for the Storm, who were up, 3-0, when Alex Harlley (Rosamond/Rosamond HS) tallied three minutes into the second half.

Santa Clarita will visit Hayward-based Bay Area Ambassadors (9-4-1), the Northern Conference champion for Saturday's Western semifinals. The Flash are home against Sonoma County Sol (7-3-4) in the other semi, and the winners will meet next week for a spot in the NPSL final four.

Fullerton looked likeliest to finish second after beating Santa Clarita, 3-0, on June 24, but it fell to third after a 5-1 loss to the Flash a week later.

It also was a big week for another So Cal side: Pali Blues claimed the W-League's Western Conference title. Another, Beach FC, failed in its bid for the Pacific-South crown in the Women's Premier Soccer League.

The Ventura County Fusion, who are headed to the Premier Development League playoffs for the fourth straight year, can claim the Southwest Division championship Wednesday.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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L.A. BLUES: Dike hurt in loss to No. 1

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
10:52
PM PT
FULLERTON -- An early goal and an injury to Bright Dike conspired Friday night to derail the L.A. Blues, who extended their losing streak to a franchise-worst four games despite a rather decent performance against the USL Pro's No. 1 team.

Orlando City SC claimed a 1-0 victory before a sparse crowd at Cal State Fullerton, knocking the Blues (5-7-2) down another peg in the standings -- to eighth -- with a rematch set for Sunday, also at Titan Stadium.

“I don't know what to say. I'm baffled ...,” said Blues head coach Charlie Naimo, whose team lost three in a row on a six-day Eastern swing that ended Tuesday. “As the game wore on, I thought we got better and better and better and just didn't produce a goal. In a tight game like this, there's not going to be a whole lot of chances.

“I was happy with the way we played. We're a good team, and [Orlando knows] it. That's two games in a row against the best team that we could've won both matches [the first, in May, was a 1-1 draw in Florida], and it wouldn't have been we got lucky. Tough shape now, man. We're in real tough shape.”

Center back Kieran Bernard headed home Anthony Pulis' corner kick in the second minute, and although the Lions (11-1-4) couldn't create a whole lot more offensively, that was enough -- especially once Dike was done.

The forward, who has six goals in 10 appearances since joining the Blues on loan from Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers, limped off with a hamstring injury just before halftime. It doesn't look to be a major ailment, but it will surely keep him out of the finale in the two-game set.

Dike had the Blues' best chance, muscling through Orlando's defense in the 28th minute for a sharp shot at the right post, but goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo made a fortunate stab to keep it out of the net.

“If we'd have played that well with Dike on the field in the second half, you've got to think he would generate three or four shots himself,” said Naimo, whose team managed just six shots, to Orlando City's eight. “So it definitely hurt us.”

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LOCALS: Rangers win NPSL showdown

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
2:22
PM PT

The Fullerton Rangers took a huge stride toward the National Premier Soccer League playoffs with Sunday's victory over FC Santa Clarita, a showdown for second place in the Western Division's Southern Conference.

Former Chivas USA/New York Red Bulls forward David Arvizu (Santa Ana/Foothill HS) scored two goals as the Rangers avenged a loss two months earlier in Santa Clarita with a 3-0 triumph at Santa Ana Stadium.

The Rangers (7-3-2) have a two-point advantage over the Storm (6-3-3) with two games to play. Both have matches remaining with the San Diego Flash (9-0-2), which has clinched the Southern Conference title.

The Rangers' NPSL team finished second to the Flash and went to the playoffs last year, when they were affiliated with the Santa Ana Winds.

Arvizu scored in the 17th and 60th minutes and Cuban forward Eder Roldan tallied in the 24th for Fullerton, which has won three in a row and scored at least three times in its past four games. Santa Clarita has won just twice in its past five games, over the division's two worst clubs (Phoenix and North Coast, with a combined 2-18-1 record), and could rue a 1-1 draw at home June 9 with San Diego Boca (4-5-3).

Santa Clarita is likely to vault back to second next weekend, when it faces fading Conejo Valley side FC Hasental (3-7-2), but getting a resullt against the Flash on July 7 is critical to the Storm' playoff hopes. Fullerton plays the Flash in San Diego this weekend, then closes July 8 at home against Boca.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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LOCALS: Ties take Tucson to the top

June, 19, 2012
6/19/12
4:03
PM PT
The Ventura County Fusion learned Saturday night how real is the threat posed newcomers FC Tucson.

The Premier Development League expansion side rallied for a 1-1 draw although down a man in a showdown of the Southwest Division's Nos. 1 and 2 clubs at Ventura College, an intense clash that ended with a little postgame dustup in the parking lot, the Arizona club reported on its website.

Francisco Lopez gave Ventura the lead five minutes into the second half, but Danny Toia -- Real Salt Lake's first Home Grown Player, released by the Major League Soccer club in February -- netted the 61st-minute equalizer. Tucson was down to 10 players after Eli Galbrath-Knapp's dismissal in the 30th minute.

The Arizonans (6-1-3) surged into first place, one point ahead of the Fusion (6-1-2), with Monday's 1-1 draw against L.A. Misioneros.

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

USL PRO: Bright Dike is the third-division league's Player of the Week after scoring the goals in the L.A. Blues' 1-0 wins Friday and Sunday over Dayton, which sent them from seventh to fifth in the table. Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh made the PDL Team of the Week. Only first-place Orlando City (9-1-2, 2.4167) and second-place Charleston (8-3-0, 2.1818) have more points per game than do the Blues (5-3-2, 1.7000).

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LOCALS: Steres makes jump from PDL

June, 12, 2012
6/12/12
8:48
PM PT
IRVINE -- Daniel Steres was drafted by Chivas USA, spent a month in camp with the Seattle Sounders, and has been a force -- in the back or anchoring the midfield -- as the Ventura County Fusion have turned the Premier Development League's Southwest Division into their own playground.

Now he's back with the Sounders, taking the next step in his journey to being a full-fledged professional.

Steres (Calabasas/Calabasas HS), who starred at San Diego State, was taken by Seattle in last week's college-waiver draft and headed over the weekend to Washington.

“We're getting the contract [sorted out], and then working my way up to get a starting role, obviously,” Steres told ESPN Los Angeles after the Fusion's 2-1 victory Friday evening over Orange County Blue Star. “Sounds like they're excited to have me come in. I'm excited to go in.”

Steres, probably a center back or right back in MLS, lost out in numbers games during preseason at Chivas and, after his release by the Goats, in Seattle. He's been superb for the Fusion, bolstering the backline next to Mickey Daly (Cal State L.A.) or Tim Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS and UC Santa Barbara) or teaming with former Chivas USA/Portland Timbers midfielder Rodrigo Lopez (Santa Barbara/Santa Barbara HS) in central midfield.

The Fusion (6-1-1) are atop the Southwest Division after rallying for a 2-1 win against Blue Star at Concordia University. Travis Bowen (Van Nuys/Chatsworth HS), the older brother of Chivas USA forward Tristan Bowen, scored both goals -- his fourth and division-best fifth of the season -- with the winner coming in the 76th minute.

Ventura is one point ahead of FC Tucson, which visits the Fusion next weekend.

Pontius, the younger brother of D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius, also is getting some MLS attention. The big center back, a Sounders draft pick, has been in camp the past week with the Galaxy. He says playing with the Fusion has helped prepare him.

“College is one thing,” he said. “College prepares you for the next step. This is kind of the in-between phase between college and pros. You've got a lot of players here who can make the next step.”

He said his time with Sounders in preseason was “spectacular.”

“Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me, but at the end, I gained a lot of experience out of that opportunity,” Pontius said. “Spots were tight there, so there's only so much you can do. You play your game, if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You try the next one.”

Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:

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COLLEGE: Link lifts L.B. past Waves

November, 13, 2011
11/13/11
12:27
AM PT

MALIBU -- Nadia Link has netted some wonderful goals this season, but few as sweet -- and none as important -- as her bending blast Saturday afternoon at Pepperdine.


Link fired into the far corner of the net with 13 seconds to go in the first overtime period to lift Long Beach State to a 1-0 triumph over the seventh-ranked Waves in an NCAA Division I tournament opener.

It was the first NCAA victory in 49ers history, and the first over a top-10 opponent, and it was product on Link's twisting shot and five big saves by goalkeeper Kaitlyn Gustaves.

“That's seven years of work -- seven and a half years ...,” said Long Beach State coach Mauricio Ingrassia, who has the 49ers in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years. “We had a couple of injuries [when we lost in the first round to San Diego] in '08. And last year we played our best game of the year against Santa Clara, but [their goalkeeper] had the game of her life. This year we felt we had the experience. It would have been very painful to be 0-3 in the tournament without scoring a goal.”

The goal was a beauty. Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) received a pass from midfielder Sidney Garza (Ventura /Buena HS), took the ball up the left flank, then cut inside along the top of the Waves box, where she found uncommon space.

She's a left-footer, but the shot was on her right, and it twisted away -- “corkscrewed,” is how Pepperdine coach Tim Ward put it -- toward the upper-right. Waves goalkeeper Roxanne Barker (Irvine/Woodbridge HS) never had a chance.

“The team was asking why did I wait so long,” said Link, who tied the school record with her 16th goal of the season. “I saw the pass coming from Sidney Garza, and all I heard was Mauricio saying, 'Take it down the line!' And I remember thinking, 'That's a long way.' ... It went in, and I don't even remember celebrating. I was too busy crying.”

Said Ward: “A moment was going to decide the game, and that moment [belonged to] Nadia Link. ... A great player scored a great goal to beat us.”

Link described the odd path of her shot as “the unpredictability of my right foot.”

The strike brought a dramatic end to a tight, thrilling clash marked by superb defense in the boxes, with Long Beach State's backline -- especially center back Jordan Nelson (Garden Grove/Pacifica HS and Loyola Marymount) -- doing well to get in the way of shots by Lynn Williams and Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS).

Gustaves (Long Beach/Wilson HS) came up big five times, including a double-save, the second with her foot, on Amanda LeCave after an uncharacteristic giveaway by defender Alex Balcer. The goalkeeper followed up by snagging a long shot by right back Michelle Pao, Pepperdine's most dangerous attacker, then made two diving saves on Williams in the second half.

Long Beach advances to a second-round clash Friday against Miami (10-7-1), a 3-2 winner over Alabama, at UCLA's Drake Stadium.

In other women's action:
  • Freshman Kylie McCarthy knocked home a 65th-minute rebound as No. 2 UCLA (16-1-3) scored a 1-0 victory over visiting New Mexico (12-5-4) in an NCAA Division I first-round game. The Bruins limited the Mountain West Conference champion to three shots, just two on target, in a dominant performance en route to a second-round clash Friday in Westwood against San Diego.

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COLLEGE: Women's all-conference teams

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
10:52
PM PT

College all-conference teams are starting to show up, and several local players (and one coach) are winning awards.


All four players of the year in the Big West Conference are with local schools. Long Beach State's Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) is the Offensive Player of the Year and Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS) is Midfielder of the Year.

All-American CoCo Goodson of UC Irvine is the Defensive Player of the Year, and Cal State Northridge's Cynthia Jacobo (Arleta/Granada Hills HS) is Goalkeeper of the Year.

West Coast Conference co-champion Pepperdine was honored with the conference's Coach of the Year, for Tim Ward, and Freshman of the Year, for Lynn Williams.

The Most Valuable Offensive Player in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, for NCAA Division II programs, is Cal State Dominguez Hills' Jessica Murphy (Torrance/West Torrance HS). Cal Poly Pomona's Christina Carriaga (Walnut/Walnut HS and Mt. San Antonio College) is the Newcomer of the Year.

In the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, for NCAA Division III schools, Cal Lutheran swept the top awards, with Sinead Vaughn (Simi Valley/Royal HS, Moorpark College and Cal State Northridge) voted Athlete of the Year and Taylor Will selected Newcomer of the Year.

Here are full lists from the Big West, WCC, CCAA and SCIAC:

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UCI wins Big West women's title

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
12:49
AM PT
Lexi Kopf scored a hat trick as UC Irvine claimed its second successive Big West Conference women's soccer title in emphatic fashion Sunday, routing visiting UC Riverside, 5-0.

Kopf scored in the 46th, 54th and 90th minutes to lead the 24th-ranked Anteaters (13-3-2), who went 6-1-1 in Big West play to edge Long Beach State by a point. UC Irvine will be home Wednesday against UC Davis in a conference tournament semifinal.

UCLA transfer Natalia Ledezma added a goal and two assists for UCI, which scored three goals in the first 8 minutes of the second half to turn a tight match into a rout.

Kopf's trio gives her 11 goals this season; Ledezma leads the Anteaters with 12.

UC Riverside closes its season at 8-9-2.

In other women's action:
  • Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) scored the go-ahead goal in the 79th minute, then sent in a cross for Jazz Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) to finish just 39 seconds later as Long Beach State pulled out a 4-2 victory over visiting Pacific. Link scored twice, her 13th and 14th goals of the season, as the 49ers (13-5-1) finished second in the Big West; they will meet Cal State Northridge in a conference tournament opener Wednesday.
  • Sydney Leroux's 14th goal of the season arrived nearly eight minutes into overtime, lifting No. 6 UCLA (14-1-2) to a 1-0 Pacific 12 Conference victory at Utah.
  • Ashley Freyer tallied in the 59th minute as USC (7-12-0) toppled host Colorado in a Pac-12 game, the Women of Troy's fourth win in their last five games.
  • Lynn Williams and Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS) scored 4 minutes apart late in the first half as No. 3 Pepperdine (14-1-4) bounced back from Friday's loss to Santa Clara with a 2-1 victory over Portland.

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COLLEGE: Waves are riding high

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
5:42
PM PT

Anisa GuajardoScott French/ESPNLosAngeles.comAnisa Guajardo leads the Waves with nine goals.

Pepperdine heads into Friday night's showdown at Santa Clara likely for the West Coast Conference women's soccer championship with a 13-0-4 record, a school-record 18-game unbeaten streak and a No. 3 spot in the national rankings.


Head coach Tim Ward thinks it's the just the beginning.

Pepperdine has had some outstanding teams but never been considered a national power, but in a landscape that is embracing more and more contenders every year -- it's not just North Carolina, Notre Dame and Santa Clara anymore -- “I feel we're a team of destiny a little bit,” Ward says.

“I feel a change in the air ...,” he says. “I think it's our time. I think it's our time to rise up and become a power in women's soccer.”

They've made their first move with a young but veteran side that has locked things down in the back, conceding just nine goals in 17 games, while feasting on a varied attack led by a local hero and two major signings from Fresno.

The three forwards -- cerebral Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS), finisher Anisa Guajardo and freshman phenom Lynn Williams, the latter two from the Central Valley -- have gotten most of the attention, combining for 19 goals and 13 assists, but Ward is fond of the assessment a friend, a top high school coach, offered after watching the Waves: “Twenty-six women with one heart.”

“I don't know if this is the most talented team we've ever had,” he says. “It certainly rivals the 2002 team [that went 18-2-2, won the WCC and reached the NCAA Sweet 16], but it is a great team. The environment, the camaraderie and team spirit definitely is what gets us through the tight [moments].

“We still have a long way to go to get better. Here we are undefeated, but we can get so much better. ... We have no illusion we're all that or we're there yet. That's another nice thing about the team. There's a lot of humility. We're sticking together like good teams should, sacrificing for each other, and we're staying humble.”

Credit goes to the senior leadership -- Cole, defensive midfielder Karissa Garcia and left back Myriah Stockman -- and the knowledge that with 10th-ranked Santa Clara and fellow national power Portland still on the schedule, the team hasn't won anything yet.

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COLLEGE: No. 7 UCI on top in Big West

October, 9, 2011
10/09/11
1:21
AM PT
UC Irvine took command of the Big West Conference race Saturday night, using two second-half goals by Miguel Ibarra to beat visiting Cal State Northridge, 2-0.

The match was a showdown between two of the Big West's three two-win teams and sent the seventh-ranked Anteaters (11-2-0) to 3-1, ahead of Northridge (5-5-1) at 2-1 and UC Davis at 2-2.

Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) gave Irvine a 58th-minute lead through a give-and-go with Jimmy Turner (Mission Viejo/Misson Viejo HS) and a deflection off a Matadors defender. Memo Licona (Lake Forest/Laguna Hills HS) set up the second goal in the 89th minute.

In other men's action:
  • Sam Garza scored in the seventh minute of overtime, and No. 19 UC Santa Barbara (8-3-1) toppled UC Davis, 2-1, for its first Big West victory. The Gauchos lost their first two conference games, to UC Riverside and UC Irvine, but bounced back Wednesday with a 3-2 overtime victory over third-ranked Akron.
  • Osvaldo Bastida (Anaheim/Katella HS) scored in the first half for Cal Baptist (7-4-0) in a 1-0 win over Western Washington at the Grand Canyon Tournament in Phoenix.
  • Redlands (11-3-0) is closing in on the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title following a 2-0 victory at second-place Pomona-Pitzer (6-5-0) on goals by Alex Laughton and Will Walker. The Bulldogs are 8-0-0 in SCIAC play; the Sagehens fell to 5-2-0.

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No. 8 Pepperdine rolls in WCC opener

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
11:41
PM PT
Laura Cole scored midway through the second half and eighth-ranked Pepperdine opened its West Coast Conference campaign with a 1-0 victory Thursday afternoon over visiting San Diego.

The Waves (9-0-4), coming off a 10-day break, limited USD to eight shots while repeatedly testing Toreros goalkeeper Courtney Parsons. Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS) scored in the 68th minute after Michelle Manning (Calabasas/Agoura HS) played her a cross from Lynn Williams.

Pepperdine has a school-record 14-game unbeaten streak after winning its conference opener for the first time in five years.

Loyola Marymount (6-4-1) begins its WCC schedule Friday night at San Francisco.

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COLLEGE: UC Davis upsets winless UCLA

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
10:14
AM PT

UCLA doesn't look much like the title contender it might be destined to become -- not yet. The Bruins, ranked as high as fourth nationally, lost again Sunday, leaving them winless in three games.

Alex Henry's goal nearly 10 minutes into overtime carried UC Davis to a 2-1 home triumph, the Aggies' first victory over UCLA in program history.

“Our team executed our tactics perfectly today, and I knew that eventually we were going to get one on them,” UC Davis coach Dwayne Shaffer told his school's athletics website. “It's a huge win for our program, and it means a lot not only to our players, but to our entire athletics department.”

Chandler Hoffman scored from Kelyn Rowe's through ball in the 87th minute to give life to the Bruins, who were down to 10 men after Ryan Lee's red card four minutes earlier.

Goalkeeper Omar Zeenni (Arcadia/Crespi Carmelite HS) made eight saves for UC Davis (1-1-1).

UCLA (0-2-1) lost its opener at No. 1 Louisville and tied Santa Clara on Friday. The first home game is Friday night at Drake Stadium against St. Mary's.

In other men's action:

  • Christian Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) scored his third and fourth goals as No. 14 UC Irvine (4-0-0) topped visiting Drake, 2-1.
  • David Opoku's 16th-minute goal gave No. 9 UC Santa Barbara (3-0-0) a Carolina sweep with a 1-0 victory at North Carolina State.
  • Jake Dobkins and Omar Mata scored goals seven minutes apart to give Tulsa a 2-1 win over No. 25 Loyola Marymount (1-2-0).
  • Nick Echeverry (Anaheim/Servite HS) scored just 19 seconds after kickoff, enough for Chapman (2-0-0) in a 1-0 win over Puget Sound.
  • Cal Lutheran got its season off to a dream start -- Raul Yepez (Oxnard/Pacifica HS) scores twice in the first 29 minutes -- but Fontbonne, from St. Louis, rallied for a 3-2 victory.
  • Matt Sykes' penalty kick in overtime carried Grand Canyon to a 2-1 win over Cal Poly Pomona (1-1-0).

THREE IN A ROW FOR USC: Courtney Garcia (Yorba Linda/Esperanza HS), just moments after coming off the bench, knocked home an overtime rebound, and USC (3-3-0) rallied for its third successive win, a 2-1 decision at Purdue.

Elizabeth Eddy (Newport Beach/Newport Harbor HS) scored an equalizer in the 63rd minute for USC, which beat No. 17 Illinois in Friday's opener at the Illini/Boilermaker Cup.

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COLLEGE: UCLA still seeks first win

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:50
AM PT

UCLA faces great expectations this season -- NCAA championship kind of expectations -- but the Bruins need to find their game before they can aim so high.

Two games in, and UCLA is still looking for its first win. It followed last week's loss at top-ranked Louisville with a disappointing 2-2 draw Friday night at Santa Clara.

The Bruins, ranked as high as sixth in Division I men's soccer, overcame a quick deficit but couldn't hold onto a late lead in a rough clash marked by 35 fouls and eight yellow cards,

Chandler Hoffman answered Erik Hurtado's strike to pull UCLA even in the 17th minute, and Eder Arreola (Chino Hills/Chin Hills HS) struck with a volley to provide a 70th-minute lead. Mykell Bates, Arreola's former teammate with the U.S. under-17 national team, pulled the Broncos (1-0-1) even in the 84th.

In other men's action:

  • Miguel Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) scored the first goal and set up a stunning overtime winner by Victor Calderon (San Jacinto/San Jacinto HS) as No. 14 UC Irvine (3-0-0) overcame visiting Gonzaga, 2-1. The Anteaters held a 44-4 shot advantage, but Ryan Caballero made 17 saves to keep the Bulldogs in the game.
  • No. 9 UC Santa Barbara (2-0-0) started its trek to North Carolina with a 3-2 victory over Duke, with Dom Sarle's overtime goal decisive.
  • All-American Luis Gonzalez (Long Beach/Millikan HS) and Daniel Gomez (Ontario/Chino HS) scored late goals six minutes apart as Cal Poly Pomona won its opener, rallying for a 3-2 victory over Dixie State in Phoenix.

UCLA WOMEN RALLY AT PEPPERDINE: Freshman Ally Courtnall (Westlake Village/Oaks Christian HS), the daughter of former NHL winger Russ Courtnall, scored with a little less than three minutes left in regulation, giving No. 6 UCLA a 1-1 draw with No. 24 Pepperdine in Malibu.

Lynn Williams' first-half goal gave the Waves (4-0-1) a first-half lead, and Roxanne Barker (Irvine/Woodbridge HS) made 10 saves as UCLA applied heavy pressure in the second half and during overtime.

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COLLEGE: Chivas' Valentin hyped for Akron visit

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
11:04
PM PT

Zarek ValentinBrian A. Westerholt/Getty ImagesZarek Valentin, left, who now plays for Chivas USA, helped Akron become one of college soccer's elite programs over the last few seasons.


Chivas USA defender Zarek Valentin has made his calls, set up his meetings, even gone to the online maps to chart the best path to Cal State Northridge.

Mighty Akron is in town, and the former Zips star -- he won the NCAA Division I title with them last December in Goleta -- is, to say the least, pumped.

The defending champs take on Cal State Fullerton on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 and Cal State Northridge on Saturday night at 7 in the Matadors' annual tournament, and it's a treat for Southern California soccer fans.

Akron, 91-13-10 in five years (plus last week's season-opening win over Cleveland State) since Caleb Porter took charge, plays the game the right way: on the floor, with style, verve and attacking know-how. It should have brought the Zips successive NCAA crowns, but Virginia toppled them on penalties following a 0-0 draw in the 2009 final.

Valentin was one of seven Akron players taken in January's Major League Soccer draft, one of five selected among the first eight picks, one of three taken with the first four selections. He's hoping to offer his perspective this week to his former teammates and the program's large, talented freshman class.

“Hopefully, I can take some of the guys who are in my class out to maybe Santa Monica or something like that for a nice dinner,” he said Wednesday. “Just kind of show them a little bit of, I guess, my lifestyle. Because I think we have a bunch of potential pros in the [Akron] team, because it's a good group. Hopefully, they start out following the right foot.

“Hopefully, I can talk to the team and just give them a little bit of insight, you know, my experience and how they need to live it up in college and enjoy it and play with a smile on your face.”

Valentin, 20, left Akron after his sophomore year, and Chivas made him the fourth overall selection. He's started 21 games in an up-and-down rookie campaign, most at right back but several in the center earlier this year. Give him a couple of years -- his potential is immense.

His Chivas teammates Blair Gavin and Ben Zemanski, who left Akron a year before Valentin, also plan to stop by Matador Soccer Field. Valentin notes that they “want to get out and see who the Blair Gavin [and Ben Zemanski are] of this cycle.”

Does he want to see this year's version of Zarek Valentin?

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COLLEGE: UCR matches 2010, in one game

August, 27, 2011
8/27/11
12:07
PM PT

UC Riverside's women's soccer team won one game and scored three goals in 2010. The Highlanders matched that Friday night.

Aaren Casimiro (Murrieta/Chaparral HS) and Deborah Musa (La Verne/Bonita HS) scored first-half goals two minutes apart and Andrea Morales added a second-half tally as UC Riverside (1-1-1) routed Mississippi State, 3-0, in its annual Women's Soccer Invitational.

It's a big step forward following last year's 1-14-3 campaign, in which UCR was outscored, 25-3, and after five seasons of decline since going 11-4-6 and playing in the NCAA tournament in 2005.

Head coach Veronica O'Brien, who took charge when the Highlanders made the jump to Division I in 2001, posted double-digit victories in five straight seasons, through 2006, but her teams have won just seven Big West Conference games in five years and is 1-13-2 the past two.

She's got nine starters back and loads of newcomers -- 17 freshmen are on the roster, with midfielder Brianna Gonzalez (Victorville/Sultana HS) and redshirt goalkeeper Jessica Olafsen in the starting lineup Friday -- as the rebuild begins in earnest.

UCR meets San Jose State in Sunday's tournament finale. The Spartans lost, 2-1, in overtime to No. 13 UC Irvine in the event's opener. Amanda Hardeman (Laguna Niguel/Dana Hills HS and Santiago Canyon College) scored the 101st-minute winner, a blast that ricocheted off the crossbar, off goalkeeper Meghan Maiwald's back and into the net.

WILLIAMS TOPS TITANS: Freshman Lynn Williams scored in the final minute to force overtime and again in the extra period, lifting Pepperdine to a 2-1 victory at Cal State Fullerton. The Waves (3-0-0) rallied quickly after Stacey Cox (Simi Valley/Royal HS) scored a would-be winner in the 84th minute for the Titans (1-1-1).

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