PACIFIC 10 CONFERENCE
Head coach: Jillian Ellis (12th year at UCLA, 216-37-12; 14th year overall, 235-55-12)
Home field: Drake Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 21-3-1 (8-1, second in Pac-10), lost to Stanford in NCAA semifinals
NCAA Tournament: 1995 and 1997-2009, eight College Cup final four appearances (reached title game in 2000, 2004 and 2005)
Top players: D Lauren Barnes (Upland/Upland HS), sr., M Zakiya Bywaters (Las Vegas), soph; F Sydney Leroux (Vancouver, British Columbia), jr.; D Jenna Richmond (Centreville, Va.), fr.; M Kylie Wright (Rancho Santa Margarita/Tesoro HS)
Outlook: The Bruins graduated five starters, including U.S. national team forward Lauren Cheney (18 goals-10 assists) from last year's NCAA semifinalists, but there are few teams as talented in college soccer. A dozen players have U.S. youth national team experience, including U-20 star Leroux (23 goals in 2009), midfield general Wright and Barnes (10 assists), a four-year starter at left back. Richmond, who joined Leroux and Bywaters on the U.S. U-20 World Cup team coached by Ellis this summer, was the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country, and midfielders Kylie Facinelli and Natalia Ledezma (La Mirada/La Mirada HS) also are expected to make impacts. UCLA has been to seven successive College Cup final fours and eight in 10 years, but their run of six straight Pac-10 titles was halted by NCAA runner-up Stanford, which beat the Bruins twice. Their other loss was a 7-2 fiasco against NCAA champ North Carolina in their opener. Throw those three games out, and UCLA surrendered just 11 goals with 12 shutouts in in 22 matches.
USC WOMEN OF TROY
Head coach: Ali Khosroshahin (fourth year at USC, 48-14-7; 10th year overall, 124-54-13)
Home field: McAllister Park (Hoover and 30th, north of campus)
Last year: 12-6-3 (4-3-2, fourth in Pac-10), NCAA Tournament first round
NCAA Tournament: 1998-2003 and 2005-09, one College Cup final four appearance (won championship in 2007)
Top players: F/M Alyssa Davila (Upland/Upland HS), sr.; D Karter Haug (Castle Park, Colo.), sr.; F Samantha Johnson (Palmdale/Highland HS), soph.; M/F Megan Ohai (Draper, Utah), sr.; Ashli Sandoval (Jamul/Granite Hills HS), jr.
Outlook: The Trojans return four players from the 2007 NCAA title-winners, including key attackers Davila (9 goals-5 assists) and Ohai (3-3) and backline anchor Haug. The other is Sandoval, whose season last year was cut short by a knee injury after she led the team in assists as a freshman and sophomore. Her mobility will determine if she's a playmaker or defender. Johnson, who played in the U-17 World Cup two years ago, needs to improve her production (4-4). There's experience all over the field, but Haug, Sandoval and midfielder Brittany Kerridge enter the season at less than 100 percent, so a solid freshman class -- led by U.S. U-18 national-teamers Mia Bruno (Rancho Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS) and Elizabeth Eddy (Newport Beach/Newport Harbor HS) and first-choice goalkeeper Shelby Church -- will get tested early. Also important: midfielder Carly Butcher and left back Chelsea Buehning, both juniors.
BIG WEST CONFERENCE
CAL STATE FULLERTON TITANS
Head coach: Demian Brown (fourth year, 25-27-8)
Home field: Titan Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 6-8-5 (4-3-1, tied fourth in Big West)
NCAA Tournament: 2001 and 2005-07, Sweet 16 in 2005
Top players: M Danielle Bitonti (Winchester/Chaparral HS), F/D Giminesse Martinez (Upland/Upland HS and St. Lucy's HS), sr.; D/M Caitlin Mellano (Fullerton/Troy HS), jr.; M Christina Murrillo (Rancho Santa Margarita/Trabuco Hills HS), sr.; G Jordan-Michelle Santos (Cypress/Los Alamitos HS), jr.
Outlook: The Titans lost just one starter from a team that closed with three wins and a draw in its last four games after struggling to find the net all season. They managed just 13 goals in 19 games -- just two in the first half -- and had eight through their first 15. Brown, who was former coach boss Ali Khosroshahin's assistant for four seasons before guiding CSUF to a Big West title and NCAA appearance in his first season in charge, will rely on a deep recruiting class to provide offense. The big acquisition is freshman Kaitlyn Mendoza (Rancho Cucamonga/Ontario Christian HS), who played club ball at Arsenal FC and Fullerton Rangers and scored 146 prep goals (with 42 assists her junior and senior seasons). The midfield is solid with Murrillo and Bitonti, who have been starting since they were freshmen.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE MATADORS
Head coach: Keith West (fifth year, 33-38-5)
Home field: Matador Soccer Field (on campus)
Last year: 10-10-0 (6-2-0, second in Big West)
NCAA Tournament: None
Top players: M Sonia Espitia (Paramount/St. Joseph HS), sr.; F Heidi Farran (San Pedro/San Pedro HS), jr.; G Cynthia Jacobo, soph. (Arleta/Granada Hills HS); D Brielle Slepicoff (Saugus/Saugus HS), jr.; F Farryn Townley (Palmdale/Highland HS), sr.
Outlook: Fifteen players in their third, fourth or fifth years at CSUN return from a side that posted the best conference finish in school history, and West hopes that experience can lead to the Matadors' first NCAA Tournament berth. Townley scored a school-record nine goals last year and has 15 in her career, just five shy of the school mark, but more goals must be found elsewhere. Farran, her strike partner, netted four, and winger Espitia and speedy back Slepicoff offer additional dimensions, but CSUN managed just 21 goals in 20 games last year. Senior Erin Kelly (Woodland Hills/El Camino Real HS), whose season was cut short by injury last fall, will strengthen the midfield. Things got better at the back with the emergence of Jacobo, the best of five goalkeepers who saw time in 2009. She posted a 0.30 goals-against average with five shutouts in seven appearances.
LONG BEACH STATE 49ERS
Head coach: Mauricio Ingrassia (seventh year, 64-42-14)
Home field: George Allen Field (on campus)
Last year: 5-11-3 (1-6-1, tied seventh in Big West)
NCAA Tournament: 2008, lost in first round
Top players: M Lindsay Bullock (Manhattan Beach/Mira Costa HS), sr.; M Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS), jr.; D Chantel Hubbard (Torrance/North Torrance HS), jr.; D/M Nicole Hubbard (Lakewood/Mayfair HS), jr.; F Nicole Sweetman (Oxnard/Oaks Christian School)
Outlook: The 49ers, their roster filled with newcomers, won just one of their final dozen games last year after going 41-17-5 while claiming three successive Big West regular-season titles, reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Ingrassia, who won five state JC titles at Long Beach City College, has a knack for building teams, and he's got better tools and experience to work with this time around. Gordon, who scored or assisted 10 of Long Beach State's 18 goals last year, is a technical central midfielder with great vision and passing skills; Bullock was the Big West's Midfielder of the Year two years ago. The Hubbards, no relation, can attack out of the back. If a consistent finisher emerges up top -- Sweetman, who arrived from UCLA after last season was underway, is a candidate -- they'll be in contention in the Big West.
UC IRVINE ANTEATERS
Head coach: Scott Juniper (fourth year, 31-23-6)
Home field: Anteater Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 12-7-2 (4-3-1, tied fourth in Big West)
NCAA Tournament: None
Top players: D Judy Christopher (Ontario/Upland HS), jr.; G Danielle de Seriere (Cerritos/Mayfair HS), sr.; F Mar Rodriguez (Santa Ana/Santa Ana Valley HS), soph.; M Dana Sanderlin (Upland/Upland HS), soph.; F Tanya Taylor (Buena Park/Sunny Hills HS), sr.
Outlook: The Anteaters bring back 10 starters from a side that scored in bunches (two or more 13 times) and surrendered less than a goal a game. The top four scorers -- All-Big West second-teamers Taylor and Sanderlin, each with six goals and four assists, plus midfielder Devon Delarosa (4 goals-5 assists) and Mexican U-20 national-teamer Rodriguez (5-2) -- are back, plus a solid defense anchored by All-Big West first-team selection Christopher and veteran Nikki Forrest (Upland/Upland HS) in front of goalkeeper de Seriere (20 career shutouts). English coach Juniper, who started with the program with former U.S. national team coach/captain (and National Soccer Hall-of-Famer) April Henrichs was in charge, has the tools to contend in a deep, balanced Big West.
UC RIVERSIDE HIGHLANDERS
Head coach: Veronica O'Brien (10th year at UCR, 82-68-22; 15th year overall, 124-11-29)
Home field: UC Riverside Soccer Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 6-9-4 (1-6-1, tied seventh in Big West)
NCAA Tournament: 2005, lost in first round
Top players: D/M Kayde Hensley (Fallbrook, Calif.), jr.; D/M Ciara Hilpert (Riverside/Riverside Poly HS), jr.; D Kristina Noriega (Westminster/Ocean View HS), soph.; D/F Candis Novis (Murrieta/Murrieta HS), sr.; G Jessica White (Yucaipa/Yucaipa HS), jr.
Outlook: Former Canadian national-teamer O'Brien, who started UCR's program in 2001, won in double-digits from 2002 to 2006, but the Highlanders have posted losing records the last three seasons and are 7-20-4 in Big West play the last four. They managed just 14 goals last year and return just one player who struck more than once, sophomore Kayla Troesh (Riverside/Riverside Poly HS), who netted just two. The strength of this group is at the back. UCR surrendered just 16 goals in 19 games, and the goalkeeper (White, who had seven shutouts -- four in a row at one point) and all four starting backliners (veteran leader Novis, Hensley, Noriega and Shelby Lewis) return.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS
Head coach: Joe Mallia (fourth year at LMU, 33-18-6; 11th year overall, 120-63-15)
Home field: Sullivan Field (on campus)
Last year: 11-6-2 (3-3-1, tied fourth in WCC)
NCAA Tournament: 2002 and 2006, lost in first round
Top players: F Julie Gallaudet (Davis, Calif.), sr.; M Cori McGovern (Danville, Calif.), soph.; F/M Erin Rementer (Honolulu), jr.; F Lily Sorentino (Santa Rosa, Calif.), sr.; D Kelsey Wilson (San Clemente/San Clemente HS), soph.
Outlook: The Lions are coming off four straight seasons with double-digit wins, and Mallia says this is the deepest, most talented team he's had in Westchester. Gallaudet, a first-team All-WCC forward last fall (she set a school record with nine assists), and Sorentino, (a first-teamer in 2008, with eight assists, who missed half of last season through injury) have combined for 14 goals and 28 assists at LMU. Replacing three all-conference midfielders might be the Lions' greatest challenge, but McGovern impressed as a ball-winner last year. The defense is young, anchored by sophomores Wilson and Jordan Nelson (Garden Grove/Pacifica HS) and with three goalkeepers with zero college experience. Redshirt freshman Brittany Jagger won the Golden Glove when her Dallas Texans club team won a national championship in 2008.
Head coach: Tim Ward (13th year, 135-75-30)
Home field: Tari Frahm Rokus Field (on campus)
Last year: 11-7-1 (3-3-1, tied for fourth in WCC)
NCAA Tournament: 2001-05, Sweet 16 in 2002 and 2005
Top players: G Roxanne Barker (Irvine/Woodbridge HS), soph.; D Haleigh Guertin (Corona/Santiago HS), sr.; M Gunny Jonsdottir (Reykjavik, Iceland), fr.; D Kelsea Smith (Camarillo/Oaks Christian School), soph.; M/F Michelle Spacciapolli (San Diego), jr.
Outlook: The Waves need to find scoring after hitting the net just 18 times in 19 games last year, and top scorer Sophia Medina -- an All-WCC first-teamer -- has moved on. Spacciapolli and sophomore Callie Payetta (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS) are the top returning goal-getters, with four apiece, and if junior Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS) can find her freshman form (she had a half-dozen goals her first year, none as a sophomore), the Malibu side could take a big step forward. Two interesting additions could help: Jonsdottir, who got her first call-up to Iceland's national team this summer, and Wake Forest transfer Lindsey Holman-Kelley. Guertin is a four-year backline starter and Barker an all-conference keeper as a freshman.