Do you remember a specific game or team vividly? Do you recall where you were when you first saw that team play? There is no denying that certain teams have a lasting impact more so than others.
The staff at TopDrawerSoccer decided to name our favorite Women’s College Soccer teams that we’ve covered - taking nothing more than enjoyment into account - below.
One of the joys of this job is being there to see when potential is realized. Look no further than the 2013 UCLA Bruins for the ideal scenario with that cliche.
The UCLA Bruins were the loveable losers of women’s college soccer for a long time. UCLA was in the NCAA College Cup eight times from 2000-2009, and never once won the whole thing. That’s eight trips to the Final Four and not one championship. That level of success attracts top players, but that level of heartbreak attracts a certain fan group as well - perhaps even some bad juju.
The Bruins bandwagon picked up many fans over the years thanks to those frequent trips to the College Cup. The Bruins cashed in on that previous success in 2011 when they signed the top ranked recruiting class in the country. UCLA typically had highly ranked recruiting classes because the Westwood campus is beautiful and Jill Ellis was the head coach for much of the 2000s. But this 2011 class was different.
UCLA basically sat at the poker table and said time to push all the chips in with this group. The bet paid off, but the path to the 2013 dream season was not easy. B.J. Snow, the coach who signed that 2011 class, left the program after the 2012 season to pursue an opportunity with U.S. Soccer.
The newly open position was a prime spot, and the UCLA Athletics Director luckily landed one of the best coaches in the country to take over the program. Amanda Cromwell’s decision to take over at UCLA after a successful stay at UCF altered the history of the two programs. With a tactical genius and excellent player manager on the sideline, the Bruins captured their first NCAA Championship in program history in 2013. Cromwell’s first season on the sideline.
Cromwell’s debut season was not all sunshine though. North Carolina, the defending National Champions, smacked the Bruins around during the first weekend of September. A heroic performance from Katelyn Rowland was the only reason the game was close. It would end up as the only loss of the season for UCLA.
The Bruins would get a shot at revenge against Crystal Dunn and North Carolina though. The rematch came in the NCAA quarterfinals at Chapel Hill, UCLA managed a historic 1-0 double overtime victory over UNC, the reigning National Champions. Taylor Smith provided the decisive goal. It was the first victory in UCLA program history over Carolina.
UCLA survived a penalty kick shootout against Virginia in the semifinal. And then dominated the championship game against Florida State, but struggled to find the go-ahead goal - Smith hit the post and the bar. Kodi Lavrusky scored the winning goal in overtime on a fantastic pass from Megan Oyster to give the Bruins their first national championship.
Although the goal scorers are often left in the memories, UCLA’s soccer intelligence, as a team, was unfair in most games. It was often one-way traffic in contests. UCLA managed to pick up the NCAA Title while only conceding one goal during the NCAA Tournament.
From a player standpoint, Sam Mewis and Abby Dahlkemper went on to stardom as World Cup Champions with the U.S. Women’s National Team. From a lasting legacy standpoint, that team helped push the Pac-12 forward. The Conference of Champions went on to win three of the next six NCAA Championships. Much of the trademarks from that UCLA squad carried over to the successful USC and Stanford squads over the next few years.
When looking back at the 2014 women’s Division I campaign, it’s borderline disgraceful that the NCAA Committee put UVA and UCLA in the same bracket of the tournament that season. The two powerhouse sides were easily among the best programs that season, and ultimately clashed in the quarterfinals, with UVA triumphing by a 2-1 scoreline in one of the best games of the last 10 years.
Even if the two year stretch from 2013 to 2014 yielded no national championships, few teams produced the caliber of attacking, possession soccer that the Cavaliers did. Featuring a dazzling midfield duo of Morgan Brian and Danielle Colaprico, with Makenzy Doniak leading the line and Emily Sonnett anchoring the team at the back, Virginia amassed an impressive 88 goals that season.
There was the ability of Brian to pick the lock of any bunkered opponent; Colaprico and Brian’s penchant to turn opposing midfielders into traffic cones, and the dominance of Doniak, who scored 20 goals and chipped in 11 assists that year. Sonnett was perhaps the most memorable of that quartet. Her Franz Beckenbauer-esque runs from the back was best personified by the goal she scored against UCLA in the quarterfinal, beating Katelyn Rowland to a lofted cross before getting cleaned out.
This was one of the most entertaining soccer teams I’ve ever watched, no matter the level, from club, college to the professional game. It was must see soccer at the time. Watching the team spread the field at Klockner Stadium and the ability of players like Doniak and Brittney Ratcliffe to use their pace to open things up for Brian and Doniak was a treat.
The tournament run in itself was remarkable, even if the 2019 edition of Stanford eclipsed it statistically. The Cavaliers scored 23 times in a five-game span, making it to the College Cup before running into a brick wall of Florida State. In Brian and Sonnett, that team sent on two players that have won World Cups with the U.S. women’s national team, with Brian a crucial figure in the team’s 2015 triumph. It's also worth mentioning that Virginia head coach Steve Swanson was part of Jill Ellis' staff in both World Cup wins as well.
Credit must be given to Florida State that season. The ACC foes were nearly as impressive as the Cavaliers, certainly from a results-perspective and from a style of play, denying UVA any hardware that season. It’s a feather in the cap for head coach Mark Krikorian, who was able to beat Virginia three times: in the regular season, NCAA tournament final and national championship. The grace and elegance of Dagny Brynjarsdottir in central spaces was a spectacle in its own right, while Megan Campbell’s long throw was an X-Factor rare even in the college soccer space. Cassie Miller back-stopped a defense that conceded just nine goals from 23 games.. Carson Pickett offered a dominant presence on the left flank, and it’s no surprise to see her continue to excel in the professional ranks.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can rewatch the 2014 national championship.