Los Angeles Soccer: Stanford
Leroux, a fast, athletic striker from UCLA with an extensive international background, was on a field at Home Depot Center with the U.S. women's national team when word arrived that the Atlanta Beat had, as expected, used the first selection on her in Friday's draft at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“[I was] told in the middle of practice,” Leroux said. “Abby [Wambach] had a water bottle, and she sprayed me in the face with it, and I kind of choked.”
Stanford's Camille Levin (Newport Coast/Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School) and UC Irvine's CoCo Goodson were the other local players selected -- they were the first two defenders taken. Levin went to New Jersey's Sky Blue FC with the fourth overall pick and Goodson joined Philadelphia in the second round, with the 12th pick.
Leroux's new Beat teammates on the national team -- defenders Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox and Amy LePeilbet, and midfielders Carli Lloyd and Kelley O'Hara -- welcomed her with high-fives. She was halfway expecting to be headed to Atlanta.
“I talked to them a little bit [before the draft],” Leroux said. “They said they had their eye on me. Just the usual, kind of. I didn't really know what was going to happen. ...
“Everyone asked me who had the No. 1 pick, and I would say Atlanta, and they would say, 'OK, so you're going to be playing in Atlanta,' and I was like, 'You know, anything can happen,' so I didn't really say anything.”
Leroux was easily the most prominent player on the board. She played in three FIFA U-19 or U-20 Women's World Cups -- the first at 14 for her native Canada -- winning the Golden Ball as MVP and Golden Boot as top scorer with the U.S. captured the 2008 title. She was a three-time All-American at UCLA, scoring 57 goals in four years at UCLA, 16 as a senior and a school record-tying 23 as a sophomore.
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 Caņada Flintridge (La Caņada 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.
Ethan Finlay's team-best 14th goal seven minutes into overtime lifted second-ranked Creighton (21-2-0) to a 1-0 victory over No. 12 South Florida (13-4-4) in a game postponed a day following heavy snowfall Saturday in Omaha.
Unseeded Charlotte (16-4-3), ranked 14th in the coaches' poll, overcame No. 5 Connecticut (19-3-3) on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Storrs, Conn.
Tony Cascio volleyed the third-seeded Huskies ahead in the 82nd minute, but Giuseppe Gentile's strike following a free kick three minutes later saved Charlotte, which outfired UConn, 4-2, after 20 minutes of scoreless overtime.
Creighton and Charlotte will meet in Friday's semifinal opener in Hoover, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham. No. 4 UCLA (18-4-1), a 1-0 winner in overtime Saturday night at Louisville, will face top-seeded, third-ranked North Carolina (20-2-2) in the later semi, slated for a 5:30 p.m. PST start.
In women's action:
- Teresa Noyola's goal eight minutes into the second half lifted No. 1 Stanford (25-0-1) to a 1-0 victory over Duke (22-4-1) in the NCAA Division I women's final in Kennesaw, Ga. The Cardinal's senior class -- including defender Camille Levin (Newport Coast/Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School) -- finished with a 95-4-4 record, with the final three losses coming in the 2008 NCAA semifinals and the 2009 and 2010 title games. Stanford is the eighth school to win an NCAA women's title, joining North Carolina (20 times), Notre Dame (three), Portland (two), Florida, Santa Clara, USC and George Mason.
Azusa Pacific was again stopped one game short of a title shot, falling to Lee in the NAIA women's semifinals for the second straight year.
Lee (22-2-0), from Cleveland, Tenn., aims for its fourth straight championship after Ashley Aragona and Jordan Woody scored goals in a 2-0 triumph over the second-seeded Cougars (16-3-2) in Decatur, Ga.
“We couldn’t finish today, and I knew it would be hard to contain their forwards,” APU coach Jason Surrell, whose team had a 14-12 shot advantage but put just four on target, told his school's athletics website. “I was surprised we didn’t score because of how many chances we had.”
The third-seeded Flames meet Concordia (19-4-1) of Portland, Ore., in the final. Concordia beat APU's Golden State Athletic Conference rival Point Loma Nazarene in the other semifinal.
Aragona scored in the 21st minute, and Woody doubled the advantage in the 74th after Lee goalkeeper Leah Wilson made big second-half saves on Heidi Witschi and Brittany Flanagan.
Lee beat Azusa Pacific, 1-0, in last year's semifinals.
Long Beach State's unprecedented run through the NCAA Division I women's soccer tournament came to its conclusion against a faster, stronger, better team. That didn't make it any easier to accept.
The 49ers bowed in a quarterfinal Friday night to Duke, which claimed a College Cup berth with a 2-0 victory in Durham, N.C., capping its dominance with two fine second-half goals to reach the final four the first time since 1992.
Long Beach (18-6-1) stayed level until the 67th minute, but its failure to create much of an attack -- with just three shots (to Duke's 15) and none on frame -- meant it was going to take something very special to add to NCAA victories over Pepperdine, Miami and San Diego with an upset of the third-ranked Blue Devils (21-3-1).
“They were very athletic, more so than my kids,” 49ers coach Mauricio Ingrassia told ESPN Los Angeles afterward. “Normally, we get to the ball quicker or we hang in the air higher. They just had some beastly athletes -- and good soccer players. End of the day, we did very well to give ourselves a shot.”
Duke will meet Wake Forest (18-3-4), a 3-0 winner over Central Florida, in a semifinal next Friday in Kennesaw, Ga. A third Atlantic Coast Conference team, Florida State (18-6-1), routed ACC rival Virginia, 3-0, and will face top-ranked Stanford (23-0-1), which beat Oklahoma State, 2-1, in overtime.
Duke was explosive on the flanks, especially through Mollie Pathman on the left, and moved the ball impressively, but Long Beach stayed in the game by surviving Kelly Cobb's blast off the crossbar in the 22nd minute and through strong play by center backs Jordan Nelson (Garden Grove/Pacifica HS and Loyola Marymount) and Alex Balcer and goalkeeper Kaitlyn Gustaves (Long Beach/Wilson HS).
Stanford scored four first-half goals to rout the Bruins, 4-1, Sunday in its packed Cagan Stadium, extending its home winning streak in women's soccer to 43 games and taking command of the Pacific 12 Conference race.
Chioma Ubogagu scored her fifth and sixth goals of the season to deliver a two-goal lead by the 18th minute. After Zakiya Bywaters halved the deficit seconds later for UCLA (10-1-2), Lindsay Taylor scored her ninth of the year in the 28th and Kristy Zurmuhlen provided a three-goal edge in the 40th.
UCLA's four-game shutout streak ended, but the Bruins stopped Stanford's seven-game stretch.
“I think we're in a good place,” said Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe, whose team has reached the past two NCAA Division I finals. “The team's doing well, but we've got to keep getting better. We've got to keep improving. We've got to learn from this game and keep growing.”
The Cardinal (13-0-1), which is 5-0-0 in the Pac-12, is looking for a third successive perfect conference campaign. Every other Pac-12 school has lost at least one. UCLA is 3-1-1.
In other women's action:
- USC (3-10-0) lost its eighth in a row as Rachel Mercik and Taylor Comeau scored second-half goals in Cal's 2-0 victory. The Women of Troy are 0-4-0 in Pac-12 play.
- Nicole Hubbard (Lakewood/Mayfair HS) scored with 12 seconds to go in regulation and Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) netted her 12th goal of the season in the fifth minute of overtime as No. 23 Long Beach State (10-3-1) rallied for a 2-1 Big West Conference victory over Cal State Fullerton (6-6-2).
The third-ranked Bruins posted their fourth straight shutout but struggled to create an attack and settled for a 0-0 draw Friday at Cal, the first blemish on their Pacific 12 Conference record.
The top-ranked Cardinal is next, in a game Sunday afternoon at 1,900-seat Cagan Stadium on Stanford's campus. The school announced Saturday that no tickets remain.
UCLA (10-0-2) dropped behind Stanford (12-0-1) in the Pac-12 standings. Stanford is 4-0-0 after a 3-0 win Friday over USC, and UCLA is 3-0-1.
Sydney Payne and Rachel Quon scored first-half goals and Natalie Griffen added another in the final minute of the Cardinal's victory over USC (3-10-0). Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe, who played for UCLA's 1990 NCAA men's title-winners, claimed his 200th career victory -- he's 200-69-26 in 14 seasons at St. Mary's and Stanford.
USC has lost seven in a row.
In other women's action:
- Loyola Marymount (6-5-1) lost in its West Coast Conference opener as Joan Piasta scored an early goal and set up another late to lift San Francisco, 2-1. Etajha Gilmer (Cerritos/Gahr HS) tallied for the Lions.
The top-ranked Cardinal (11-0-1), national runners-up the last two seasons, has won the last four meetings with the Bruins (10-0-1), including a round-of-16 clash in last year's NCAA tournament. They're unbeaten in their last 57 regular-season games, since falling to UCLA on Oct. 31, 2008.
UCLA, which is No. 1 in the RPI and No. 2 in Soccer America's rankings, has used dominant defensive displays while winning its last seven games, five of them by 1-0 scorelines, but its depth in the nets will be tested after senior goalkeeper Chante' Sandiford tore her left Achilles' tendon during training last week. She was the Bruins' starter the past two seasons, but freshman Katelyn Rowland has been in the nets most of this fall.
The Bruins on Friday face California (8-3-1), with Stanford starting the weekend against struggling USC (3-9-0). Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe, who played on UCLA's 1990 NCAA men's title-winners, will claim his 200th career victory with his next win.
Ratcliffe, who is from Calabasas, guided St. Mary's for five seasons before taking charge at Stanford in 2003. His teams are 81-4-4 in the past three-plus seasons.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Connor Brandt (Temecula/Great Oak HS) turned a 20th-minute takeaway into a goal to lift Cal State Dominguez Hills to a 1-0 victory Friday at San Francisco State. He went one better two days later, with a steal and a chip in overtime to carry the Toros past Cal Poly Pomona, 2-1.
UC Santa Barbara defender Michael Boxall -- initially considered a potential first-rounder in last week's SuperDraft, but his stock dropped after a poor combine (and because, as a New Zealander, he counts as a foreign player -- was the top pick in Tuesday's proceedings, going to Vancouver.
Stanford's Ryan Thomas (Claremont/Claremont HS) was selected with the second of the Galaxy's two first-round picks.
“I was watching the draft online and it was a shock to me to be picked by the Galaxy,” Thomas told Stanford's website. “I grew up in L.A. and would go to watch the Galaxy games at the Rose Bowl, and now I am going to get to play on that field.”
The Galaxy, of course, moved from the Rose Bowl to the Home Depot Center in 2003, but it still plays the occasional friendly in Pasadena.
Loyola Marymount midfielder Rafael Baca (Lawndale/Animo Leadership HS) wasn't selected and is available to attend any MLS camp as a free agent.
The supplemental's three rounds effectively were rounds 4, 5 and 6 from Tuesday's draft, and most teams used their selections for prospects who will be needed with restoration of the reserve league.
DANIEL KEAT: New Zealand national-teamer, a four-time All-Ivy League pick and an All-American as a junior, was a savvy, aggressive central midfielder at Dartmouth who might be better suited to wing play in MLS.
- Newsmakers/No. 10: Alex Morgan/Christen Press
Stanford's Cristen Press led the nation with 26 goals this season.
Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School), a senior forward with superb skill, broke every significant offensive record at Stanford while leading the top-ranked Cardinal to the NCAA College Cup championship game.
The U.S. under-23 national team standout, whose future likely is as a withdrawn forward or attacking midfielder, scored 26 goals to lead the nation, but she was shut out in Cary, N.C., and Stanford fell in the final for the second successive season, losing, 1-0, to Notre Dame.
Morgan's senior season wasn't quite so stirring -- Cal went out in the first round of the NCAA tournament -- but the striker from Diamond Bar (Diamond Bar HS) emerged as the U.S. national team's biggest weapon off the bench.
Alex Morgan emerged as a big weapon off the bench for the U.S. national team.
Her numbers -- four goals in just 232 minutes of action -- were the best on the U.S. team: One goal every 58 minutes, 1.55 per 90 minutes.
International duty limited Morgan to a dozen games for Cal, but she scored 14 goals and joined Press as one of three finalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy, college soccer's most prestigious player-of-the-year honor.
What's next: Next month's Women's Professional Soccer draft, in which Morgan and Press could be the top two picks.
- Stories/No. 10: Expansion!
The L.A. Blues and OC Sol were unveiled in December, adding to a landscape that stars Major League Soccer's Galaxy and Chivas USA and features a host of minor-league clubs playing in national semipro/amateur leagues.
The Blues, with former Sol general manager Charlie Naimo as head coach/GM, will play in the United Soccer Leagues' new USL Pro division, with most of their home games at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium. They've already got four players lined up, including former Galaxy midfielder Josh Tudela.
The OC Sol is one of two pro women's teams Bay Area-based Soccer Partners LLC is producing as a precursor to a planned WPS expansion team in 2012. Former L.A. Sol coach Abner Rogers will be the OC team's head coach and the technical director of both teams -- the other will be based in the Bay Area -- which will play in the semipro/amateur Women's Premier Soccer League.
Four other L.A.-area teams play in the WPSL, but all are amateur outfits.
Palos Verdes Estates' Christen Press, fresh off Stanford's disappointing defeat to Notre Dame in Sunday's NCAA Division I women's final, heads into a weeklong camp at Home Depot Center with the U.S. under-23 women's team.
Press (Chadwick School) is among nine pros and the nation's top college players -- three locals -- who will join the team, guided by University of Portland director of soccer (and men's coach) Bill Irwin, on Sunday.
The U-23 team is primarily a developmental squad, a steppingstone from college soccer to the full U.S. national team; the primary competition at the age level is the Nordic Cup, an exhibition event played most summers in Scandinavia.
Christen Press will close her college career with every conceivable award -- except the one she wanted.
The Stanford senior from Palos Verdes Estates, who led the nation with 26 goals, was shut out in both games of the NCAA Division I women's College Cup -- Notre Dame did the trick in Sunday's final and pulled out a 1-0 upset over the top-ranked Cardinal.
Freshman Adriana Leon, a Canadian U-20 national-teamer, scored in the 62nd minute for the Fighting Irish (21-2-2), who beat the last three champions (USC, 2007; North Carolina, 2008 and 2009) en route to the final four. It was the first time Stanford (23-1-2) had trailed since Sept. 10, a span of 20 matches.
Notre Dame, which also won titles in 1995 and 2004, becomes the second team to win at least three national titles in women's soccer. North Carolina has 21 championships -- 20 NCAA, one AIAW -- and Portland has captured two. Five schools have won once.
Camille Levin and Lindsay Taylor scored second-half goals Friday as top-ranked Stanford returned to the NCAA Division I women's soccer final. A victory Sunday over Notre Dame would give the Cardinal their first title.
Boston College (17-7-1) shut down star forward Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School), who failed to notch a goal or assist for just the fifth time all season, but Stanford (23-0-2) got a goal from an unlikely source to take charge in a 2-0 victory.
Levin (Newport Coast/Tarbut V'Torah) netted her second goal of the season in the 48th minute. Taylor netted an insurance goal in the 87th, her 11th goal of the season.
Notre Dame (20-2-2) reached its third final in five years. Mandy Laddish's 82nd-minute goal lifted the Fighting Irish to a 1-0 triumph over Ohio State (17-4-2).
APU OUT OF NAIA: Azusa Pacific's run to the NAIA women's title game was halted one game shy of the goal by two-time defending champion Lee University of Cleveland, Tenn. Samantha Hare's goal just 85 seconds in was the difference in a 1-0 decision that sent the Lady Flames (21-2-1) to their fourth final in six years.
Christen Press possesses nearly every meaningful record in the annals of Stanford University women's soccer -- except the one she most desires.
The senior striker from Palos Verdes Estates has been the nation's most prolific scorer over the past four years, and her exploits in front of the net have played a huge part in prodding the Cardinal to three successive College Cup final fours.
Now it's time to win.
Press, who leads the nation with 26 goals in 22 games, leads top-ranked Stanford (20-0-2) into this weekend's College Cup in Cary, N.C., and after falling to North Carolina in last year's title game, only one outcome is acceptable.
"We were all very disappointed [to lose last year], and I think we're in a season where it's the national championship or be disappointed again,” she said. "It's not impossible to have a successful year [without the title]. It would just be unsatisfying."
The Cardinal takes on Boston College (17-6-1) in a semifinal Friday (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.), with a title-game matchup against Notre Dame (19-2-2) or Ohio State (17-4-1) looming Sunday (ESPN2, 9 a.m.).
Press, the only serious contender for every national player-of-the-year award, has been virtually unstoppable this season: She's had a goal or assist in all but four of the Cardinal's games, posted seven multigoal games -- three in her last seven outings -- and dazzled foes as the signature player in a deep, talented Stanford lineup.
Her 26 goals tied the school single-season mark set last year by Kelley O'Hara, and she set career records for goals, points and assists this season. The single-season assist record is hers, too, with 16 last year.
"Christen has been amazing all four years at Stanford," Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "She's got the highest level of skill that you can have, I think. Great striker of the ball with both feet, and she's a goalscorer. She's got that knack. And that's hard to teach."
UCLA's string of College Cup final four appearances has ended at seven. The Bruins were booted from the NCAA Division I women's soccer tournament Friday night by No. 1 Stanford, which is just one victory from a repeat trip to the College Cup.Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School) scored her 24th and 25th goals of the season as the Cardinal (21-0-2) romped to a 3-0 triumph. They'll be home for next weekend's quarterfinal against Florida State (15-5-1) or Marquette (16-4-3), who face off Saturday.
UCLA's campaign ends at 13-8-2.
Stanford, which won the regular-season meeting, 2-0, after knocking out the Bruins in overtime in last year's NCAA semifinals, went ahead on a fifth-minute own goal, and Press doubled the advantage in the 29th minute off a feed from Camille Levin (Newport Beach/Tarbut V'Torah School) and added the third in the 60th.
Press on Thursday was selected Top Drawer Soccer's national Player of the Year after sharing the Web site's honor with then-teammate Kelley O'Hara last year.