Los Angeles Soccer: Sarah Devine

WPS DRAFT: Local prospects

January, 12, 2012
Women's Professional Soccer follows Major League Soccer's lead and will stage its college-player draft Friday morning in Kansas City, Mo.

Here are seven local players angling to go to one of the five remaining clubs in America's top women's league:

Colleen Boyd (Oregon State): Goalkeeper from La Cañada Flintridge (La Cañada HS) was pivotal in the Beavers rise to regional power, an All-American who posted 27 shutouts and a 0.81 goals-against average in four seasons.

Judy Christopher (UC Irvine): Holding midfielder from Ontario (Upland HS) doesn't have sparkly numbers, but she's been the best defense-oriented midfielder in the Big West Conference for three seasons, critical to UC Irvine's conference title runs the past two years.

Sarah Devine (UC Irvine): Central defender from San Diego is coming out early -- she's a junior athletically after an injury redshirt her first year but eligible for selection. Sometimes overshadowed by her more celebrated teammate (below), but she's a solid, steady backline presence.

CoCo Goodson (UC Irvine): Central defender from Ramona (San Diego County) is a two-time All-American who, her coach says admiringly, plays the game like a man. She's got a rocket shot and is versatile enough to play anywhere on the field, but she's a force at the back.

Shawna Gordon (Long Beach State): Central midfielder from Rancho Cucamonga (Los Osos HS) is absolutely unflappable, a technical player who keeps things simple and expertly regulates the game's flow. She shared the 49ers' assists lead this year, with 10, despite taking a deeper stance in midfield, one of the maneuvers key to Long Beach State's run to the NCAA quarterfinals.

Sydney Leroux (UCLA): Forward from Vancouver, British Columbia (by way of Phoenix) is the big fish in this draft pool, a rising U.S. national-teamer and three-time All-American who scored 16 goals as a senior and 57 in four seasons with the Bruins while starring for the U.S. under-20 national team. Fast, intense, athletic.

Camille Levin (Stanford): Outside back from Newport Coast (Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School) might be the most impactful player in the draft. The first-team All-American is smooth, incredibly versatile and reminds some of another So Cal outside back from The Farm, WPS star Ali Riley.

COLLEGE: UCI aims for Big West double

November, 6, 2011

UC Irvine has been here before, with a home game against their mightiest rival with an NCAA tournament berth, or at least an automatic berth, there for the taking.

Long Beach State knocked off the Anteaters last year, merely a hiccup en route to UCI's program-best round-of-16 appearance, and the 49ers are the opposition again Sunday in the Big West Conference tournament championship game.

The 24th-ranked Anteaters (14-3-2) will be home for the noon clash. Win or lose, they figure to make the NCAA field, and Long Beach (14-5-1) might be through regardless, too.

“You never know,” Anteaters coach Scott Juniper said on the eve of the match. “I think it looks likely [that we'll make it], and Long Beach has had a great season and put themselves in a great spot. The conference deserves two.”

The Big West usually has been underrated, especially by the NCAA, which relies far too heavily on RPI, a mechanism that doesn't really work when the sampling of interregional matches is so small. The regionalization of the NCAA bracket leads to too many first- and second-round matchups with the UCLAs, Stanfords and Santa Claras, giving the conference little opportunity to demonstrate its quality.

This year could be different. Long Beach State has a vibrant attack guided by wing-forward Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) and central midfielder Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS). UC Irvine has a lock-down defense led by All-American CoCo Goodson and an offense sparked by UCLA transfer Natalia Ledezma (La Mirada/La Mirada HS), a U.S. youth national teams veteran.

“I knew this team could be as good as the team from last year, if not better,” said Juniper, whose Anteaters went 19-2-2 in 2010. “What's different and better is we got more experience and we have more confidence through the fact that we have more experience in the later stages [of the season].”

UCI has won seven in a row, six of them by shutout -- surrendering just 2½ shots on goal on average -- after a stretch of six games in which it conceded two or three goals five times. Juniper said the answer was to “go back to basics,” and Goodson, fellow center back Sarah Devine and top-class holding midfielder Judy Christopher (Ontario/Upland HS) responded with strong performances.

Ledezma has scored 12 goals with eight assists and is seeing her partnership with Lexi Kopf, who has 11 goals, reaching fruition as the NCAA tournament nears. Nice timing.

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