Welcome to this edition of "Up Close" on CollegeSoccerNews.com, where host Adam Zundell brings you the voices of the game -- players and coaches -- straight to you, unfiltered, exclusively on CollegeSoccerNews.com.
In this episode, Coach Jamie Clark talks about his moves from Harvard to Creighton and eventually to Washington, the historic 2013 season for the Washington Huskies, and the start of the 2014 season. Washington welcomes Connecticut and Penn this weekend. Coach Clark also talks about being in one of the soccer hotbeds in the country in the Pacific Northwest.
Wisconsin is a program on the rise.
The Badgers continue to climb up the NSCAA Division I Top 25 -- No. 9 this week -- and players are collecting plenty of early season accolades.
UW is off to its best start in season history at 6-0-0 following a pair of shutouts over Washington and Portland on the road last weekend, and has outscored foes 18-1 in the first six contests.
“We have people scoring goals up front and we have a good defense – we’ve only given up one goal,” head coach Paula Wilkins said. “I think that combination helps. People talk about the scoring, but I think how the team has bought into defending has made us able to eliminate a lot of opportunities and create chances on the other side.”
Just a few months ago, things weren’t looking so rosy for the Badgers. UW turned in a disheartening 10-7-2 record last year and exited the Big Ten Tournament following a first-round loss to Penn State, which ended the team’s season.
The Badgers were disappointed in themselves after the 2013 campaign so the seniors went to Wilkins and took it upon themselves to change the team’s focus and core values.
“We always knew we had the talent and that it was just a matter of doing everything right. That’s what we did all spring and summer, and now it is paying off,” senior Cara Walls said. “We focused on always staying positive and trying to empower each other as often as possible. We want to build each other up – I think that really helped.”
Wisconsin’s goals throughout the non-conference part of the schedule were to stay healthy and have teams expose their weaknesses so the squad could improve heading into Big Ten play.
“That’s been our focus going into the weekend,” Wilkins said. “The one thing you can’t prepare for is that Big Ten opponents know you because they’ve been playing against us for so many years. There’s a lot more on the line for conference play.”
The Badgers will open league action at Michigan State, which also boasts a perfect 6-0-0 mark heading into the weekend. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network at 3:30 p.m. Wisconsin will face Michigan (4-2-0) on Sunday – a team that has been at or near the top of the Big Ten standings in recent years.
“I’ve been here for four years,” Walls said. “I know there are no easy games. I’m hoping to be a leader and let the girls know they have to fight for every game.”
With the early attention, Wilkins knows her squad will not be sneaking up on anyone this season – and so does her team.
“It’s harder sometimes because you get everybody’s best game,” Wilkins said. “Winning the first six games changed our image. This is the first time our players are really dealing with that, but at the end of the day we can only control what we can do.”
“I think we’ve been teetering on the edge of being a good team, but this group of girls is really determined to change the program and set a new standard for Wisconsin women’s soccer,” Walls said.
AROUND THE TOP 25
The most anticipated match-up of the week is undoubtedly No. 7 Florida at No. 4 Stanford on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT. It will be the fifth time the Cardinal will face a ranked opponent this season. The two programs have not met since 2001. Stanford has reeled off five straight shutouts to start the season, stretching its scoreless streak to 489:35 dating back to last season. Last weekend, the Gators ended Florida State’s 37-game unbeaten streak.
No. 7 Texas Tech earned its highest ranking in school history following a 5-0 start and will put its perfect record on the line at No. 11 California on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The game is set to air live on Pac 12 Networks. Junior midfielder Hannah Devine, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, ranks second in the league for goals. Cal is 6-0 for the first time since 2000 – the same year the Bears posted a program-best 17 wins.
Auburn cracked the NSCAA Division I Top 25 at No. 18 on the merits of a five-game winning streak. The ranking is Auburn’s first since August 2012. Ten different players have scored a goal for the Tigers, including Logan Beal, who leads the team with three tallies. Auburn looks to stretch the streak this weekend when the Tigers host Samford and Milwaukee.
DePaul also joined the Top 25 at No. 21 after setting a program record with six consecutive victories. Abby Reed has fueled the Blue Demons’ early fire with a nation-leading four game-winning goals. DePaul tries to extend the streak against Green Bay on Thursday.
Maryland will host No. 25 Rutgers on Friday as the two programs kick off their inaugural seasons of Big Ten action. Rutgers is 8-14-3 against Big Ten foes before this season, but has won its last three contests against league opponents. However, Maryland leads the series with the Scarlet Knights, 1-5-1, including a 1-0 victory in the last meeting in 2005.
SIDEKICKS:East Tennessee State is the top-scoring team in the nation, averaging 5.0 goals per game. Sophomore defender Hannah Shortand sophomore forward Simona Korenare tied for the NCAA lead with nine goals each. The Bucs are 6-0-0 … Kansas is 6-0-0 for the first time since 2004. The Jayhawks have yet to trail in a game this year – a streak of 452 minutes ... No. 3 Virginia Tech leads the ACC with 24 goals. Twelve different players have scored for the Hokies … Temple is off to the best start in school history at 5-0. The Owls are riding their first five-game winning streak since the 2000.
This season, every Pepperdine University player chose a single word as their daily focus.Senior forward Lynn Williams picked “opportunity” as her mantra, which is fitting, because she is certainly making the most of her opportunities so far this year.
Williams garnered West Coast Conference Player of the Week on Monday for contributing two goals and two assists in victories over Florida Atlantic and perennial power North Carolina, including the game-winner against the Tar Heels.
And while Williams’ individual focus is the “opportunity” to get better every day, she is quick to credit her teammates’ “all in” mentality for the squad’s early success. The Waves are off to a 4-0-0 start – one win shy of the program’s best ever – and jumped up to No. 11 in the latest NSCAA Division I Top 25. The only squad in Pepperdine history to open the year 5-0-0 was the 2005 team that advanced to the Sweet 16.
“We want to go farther in the tournament than we’ve ever gone and we all have a drive and passion for that,” Williams said.
Williams attributes head coach Tim Ward’s addition of assistant coach Max Rooke to the coaching staff for the fresh approach to the mental part of the game. Rooke’s knowledge of sports psychology has helped the Waves attack the game with both the body and mind.
“(Rooke) has brought a whole new mentality to the team,” Rooke said. “We focus a lot more on the mind and not always technical ability. Every day is an opportunity to get better and if you don’t do it right in practice, it is not going to translate to the field.”
Pepperdine hits the road for the first time this weekend as it travels to Hawaii’s Outrigger Resorts Soccer Classic to play Washington State on Friday and No. 1 UCLA on Sunday. The Waves have posted three consecutive shutouts entering the weekend.
“I like this mix of new freshmen and the returners,” Williams said. “I think we all realize we are good enough to win a national championship if we put our minds to it. This year, practice is a fight for every single minute you get (to play in the games). That’s really exciting because it is really competitive in practice and I think it translates to the games.”
AROUND THE NATION
Pepperdine may have a tough time keeping up the winning momentum as the Waves face the nation’s stingiest defense, UCLA, on Sunday. The Bruins have yet to allow a goal and have held foes to just one shot on goal, and only six total shots, in four games.
No. 2 Florida State hosts No. 8 Florida in a Sunshine State showdown 7 p.m. Friday. Seminole senior Dagny Brynjarsdottir paces FSU with three goals in four games, including last Sunday’s game-winner over Oklahoma, which made her the program’s all-time leader in game-winning goals. The Seminoles have won three straight against the Gators, including two consecutive shutouts. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Another instate clash will take place Friday in the Palmetto State when Clemson heads to No. 9 South Carolina in a matchup of two 4-0-0 squads. The Tigers have netted 18 goals in four games, well ahead of last year’s total of three, and have given up just two scores during the stretch. Meanwhile, South Carolina is the only team in the Southeastern Conference yet to surrender a point and has allowed only 11 shots on the year. The Gamecocks are riding a program-best 14-game home winning streak into Friday’s contest.
No. 13 Georgetown University takes the Corboz“sister act” on the road again when the Hoyas head to No. 5 Virginia Tech on Friday. Daphne – a senior – has contributed four goals and five assists on the year, while freshman Rachel notched her first goal and first assist in the Hoyas’ 5-0 win at Towson last Sunday. The Corboz sisters, along with junior Vanessa Skrumbis (6 g, 1 a), have accounted for 29 of Georgetown’s 38 points on the season.
No. 15 Wisconsin is off to the program’s best start since 2004 with a 4-0-0 mark, but the Badgers will hit the road for the first time this weekend for their toughest tests of the year. Wisconsin will take on undefeated Washington on Friday at the Husky Invitational, and then face No. 22 Portland on Sunday at the tournament. The Pilots have started just 1-2-0, but their two losses came at the hands of No. 2 Florida State and No. 4 Stanford.
No. 7 Penn State and No. 18 Arkansas, both unbeaten, head to Tobacco Road this weekend to face No. 14 North Carolina and Duke at the Duke Nike Classic on Friday and Sunday. All four contests will be broadcast on ESPN3.
For the first time since 2006, the Fordham women's soccer team entered the NSCAA Division I Women's Soccer Regional Rankings at No. 9 in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Rams picked up shutouts over Vermont and Maine last weekend and are riding their first three-game winning streak since September 2012.
At 4-0-0, Kansas is off to the program’s best start since 2009. Junior midfielder Liana Salazer leads the Jayhawks and the Big 12 Conference with five goals and 11 points on the year. She earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors for contributing three goals and an assist in victories over UTSA and Wake Forest.
Nebraska hosts No. 20 Oklahoma in a meeting of former Big 12 rivals Friday. The Huskers and Sooners are meeting for the 17th time in series history with Nebraska owning a 12-3-1 advantage. Oklahoma won the last meeting in 2012. The Sooners are fresh off an upset of then No. 6 Florida, which earned the program its first national ranking since 2005. Nebraska looks to build momentum following a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Marquette last Sunday.