The wait is over. The college soccer season officially starts tonight and we’re kicking it off with your insider guide to the women’s campaign. Which players will star? Who will win it all?
Five soccer writers answer those very questions and give us their season predictions.
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Now, on to the expert predictions:
Give me one surprise program that will burst onto the national scene this season?
Scott Whittum, College Sports Madness: William& Mary. They have a great opportunity right out of the gate at home against Duke to see where they are on the national stage. They have a senior superstar player in midfielder Mallory Schaffer, who is on the Hermann Trophy Watch List, and the Tribe can defend with the nation’s best which is critical come postseason when goals are at a much greater premium.
Will Exline, Fox Soccer Plus: Look no further than the Richmond Spiders. While they finished a respectable 13-5-3 last season, including a 7-1-1 in a better than expected A10 conference, they have set themselves up for a strong 2012 campaign. Behind 2011 A10 Offensive Player of the Year and Preseason All-American Becca Wann, the Spiders will have plenty of firepower to handle their challenging schedule. Early season tests against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech should give a strong indication of whether Richmond is ready to step up.
Travis Clark, TopDrawerSoccer.com: They’ve made waves before, but I think Marquette has the right combination of talent and experience to really make some bigger waves on the big stage.
Ciara McCormack, Our Game Magazine: I think Kentucky because not only is Coach Lipsitz worth a follow on twitter as one of the more entertaining college coaches out there, I think he has a history of building winners. He did a great job at Charlotte, leading their team to 3 straight conference titles before coming over to UK in 2009. In the last two years one can already see glimpses of the same kind of success for the Wildcats. This year again they have another top 15 ranked recruiting class building upon a similar quality from last year and they didn’t lose that much, with most of their starters returning.
Paul-Michael Ochoa, The Daily Nexus: Santa Clara. U.S. U20 team participant Julie Johnston will look to lead the Broncos to a West Coast Conference title and improve upon last season’s first round tournament exit.
Give me one surprise player who will burst onto the national scene this season?
Whittum: Nadia Link of Long Beach State has laid the foundation for a Hermann Trophy run after the 49ers’ deep run to the Elite Eight in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Also, being the senior leader and the featured goal-scorer is going to put her in a prime situation to light up the scoreboard this season.
Exline: Sophomore Lauren Bohaboy from Notre Dame should be primed for a breakout season. With Notre Dame’s All-Everything superstar Melissa Henderson’s graduation, the stage is set for Bohaboy to take it to the next level. One of 18 underclassmen on the 25-player roster, the highly touted So Cal Blues product will be looked upon to help carry the team this season.
Clark: Look out for midfielder Cristin Granados, of VCU. The crafty midfielder is a Costa Rican international, dynamite with the ball on her feet and will help her side make a splash in their move to the Atlantic 10.
McCormack: I guess it’s dependent on what constitutes a surprise. I think Summer Green will burst onto the national scene, with the scoring she has done on the U17 team, backed up by a very good team at UNC that I think will be back in the limelight. I think Hannah Wilkinson at Tennessee will definitely be a player that has shown the ability to be dominant at a very high level internationally and will do very well in the SEC. It will also be fun to watch established international players such as Raquel Rodriguez at Penn State and Charlyn Corral at Louisville.
Ochoa: Nadia Link of Long Beach State. If soccer fans don’t already know Link after she led the 49ers to the elite eight last season, they should certainly pay attention this season. A participant on the U.S. U23 team, Link has the star power to become the next big name in college soccer.
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