Nov. 1, 2001
SAN BRUNO, Calif. - For the first time in league history, the West Coast Conference boasts five women's soccer teams in the Top 25 nationally. This is also the first instance in the league's 50-year history that any sport has had five teams ranked this high. In the release of the NSCAA/adidas Top 25 women's soccer poll on October 29, Santa Clara, Portland, Saint Mary's, San Diego and Pepperdine all earned national recognition for their superb play so far this season. That's more than any other conference in the country and with five WCC squads represented in the polls, 63 percent of the league is ranked among the nation's elite.
"It's fitting that such an accomplishment happens as the WCC celebrates its 50th anniversary," said Commissioner Michael Gilleran. "Our women's soccer programs have earned this recognition by playing the nation's top competition year in and year out and therefore raising the level of conference play. Our production on the field this season has shown that the WCC is the premier women's soccer conference in the country."
The third-ranked Santa Clara Broncos are used to the national spotlight, spending four of the past five seasons marching to the NCAA semifinals. This year's team is spearheaded by all-American Aly Wagner on offense and all-American Danielle Slaton on defense. Wagner leads the WCC and is tied for fourth nationally in points with 40 (13 goals, 14 assists). Slaton has anchored a Broncos defense that has eight shutouts on the season and has allowed just nine goals. Another WCC team accustomed to the limelight is the No. 4 Portland Pilots. Head coach Clive Charles has built a powerhouse program on the Bluff, producing world class players such as Tiffeny Milbrett, Shannon MacMillan and Michelle French. He looks to have another phenom on his hands in freshman Christine Sinclair, who is tied with SCU's Wagner as the WCC's leading goal scorer with 13. Sinclair hopes to lead Portland to the College Cup for the third time in the last four seasons.
Saint Mary's climbed as high as seventh in the polls before earning a No. 12 ranking this week. Fourth-year head coach Paul Ratcliffe has turned the Gaels around from a 6-12 squad three years ago to a team to be reckoned with on the national scene. Coach Ratcliffe's young bunch has great team chemistry led by talented freshman forward Katie Frattone and junior netminder Ruth Montgomery, who leads the league in shutouts with 8.5.
San Diego started the season 5-3, but has made a surge in the month of October to pull its record to 12-4 overall, earning a No. 18 ranking by the NSCAA. The Toreros are one of the hottest teams in the west, outscoring opponents 24-7 over the last eight games and earning their first top-20 ranking of the season. San Diego is one of two teams in the WCC to advance to the NCAA tournament the past two seasons and is looking for a repeat performance in 2001, preferably with their first WCC crown in hand.
One of the biggest surprises in the country has been the emergence of No. 21 Pepperdine. The Waves burst into the polls three weeks ago and climbed as high as 20th last week. Pepperdine was outstanding in non-conference play, going 8-0-3, taking their non-conference record to 23-8-5 over the past three seasons. Junior Kristi Bissonette has developed into the Waves' top scorer netting 10 goals this season, compared to six goals in her first two years combined.
The Broncos conclude league action this weekend with a highly-anticipated match against 10th-ranked Portland on Friday. That contest will begin at Buck Shaw Stadium at 7:30 p.m. The league title is still up for grabs as SCU, San Diego and Portland each only have one loss in conference play, but history is on Portland and Santa Clara's sides as they are the only two schools to ever bring home a WCC Championship. Santa Clara concludes the weekend that Sunday, hosting No. 27 San Diego for a 1 p.m. match at Buck Shaw.