July 24, 2012
CARDIFF, Wales -
The London Olympics begin not with Opening Ceremonies on Friday, but with a Great Britain-New Zealand women’s soccer match on Wednesday, with New Zealand’s Ali Riley, Stanford class of 2010, on the pitch.
Riley is among four former Stanford stars in the tournament, believed to be the most from any U.S. college or university. All played under current Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe.
The kickoff is set for 8 a.m. PT at the Millennium Stadium, the national rugby stadium of Wales. At that point, the Games of the XXX Olympiad will be underway, if not officially.
The U.S. – which includes Stanford greats Nicole Barnhart ‘04, Rachel Buehler ‘07, and Kelley O’Hara ’10 – opens play at 9 a.m. against France at Scotland’s fabled Hampden Park in Glasgow.
No other school can claim as many players on the U.S. team as Stanford’s three. This will be the second Olympic tournament for Barnhart, Buehler, and Riley, and the first for O’Hara. In addition, Christen Press ’11 will be with the U.S. team as an alternate.
O’Hara has finally found her niche with the U.S. team as an outside left back, with the freedom to go forward and play like a wing much like Riley did at Stanford during College Cup seasons in 2008 and ’09. O’Hara was a Hermann Trophy-winning forward at Stanford in 2009.
U.S. captain Christine Rampone talked about O’Hara’s role during a conference call on Friday:
“Some of the great defenders on this team have started as forwards early in their careers and made their way to the back. So, I think a left back position for Kelley is a great spot for her and she goes forward very well and she gives our offensive attack a lot more flare.
“She’s really coming into her own defensively, on one-to-one defending she’s doing real well and I think she’s learning her role of connecting with the back line. So I’m really confident in the way Kelley’s playing and looking forward to seeing how well she does here in the Olympics.”
The Olympic tournament began in 1996 when Julie Foudy, Stanford class of ’93, captained the U.S. to the gold medal in Atlanta. The Americans have won three of the four golds, including the past two.
New Zealand has qualified for only the second time, having gone 0-2-1 at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Unlike the men, there are no age restrictions in the women’s tournament. The opening round is group play with three groups of four. Eight of the 12 teams advance to elimination play. The U.S. is part of Group G, with France, Colombia, and North Korea. New Zealand plays in Group E, with Great Britain, Cameroon, and Brazil.
Riley appears to be healthy after missing New Zealand’s final tuneup because of a leg injury suffered in a recent match against Canada on July 14. However, she is expected to start in defense against the host nation.
The following is a guide to Stanford's players in the tournament:
Hometown: Gilbertsville, Pa.
Stanford graduating class: 2004
International caps: 43
National team: Played a key role in 2010 and 2011 when she stepped into goal as the starter in the absence of Hope Solo, who was recovering from a shoulder injury, and helped the U.S. qualify. Tall, strong and athletic, her experience and confidence add a commanding presence to perhaps the strongest goalkeeping trio in the tournament. She has a 26-3-3 all-time record in the nets for the U.S., having been a backup on the 2007 and 2011 World Cup teams, and 2008 Olympic gold medal-winning side.
Stanford: A two-time first-team All-American, Barnhart continues to hold Stanford career records for goals-against average (0.45) and shutouts (35), as well as single-season marks in GAA (0.19, 2002), shutouts (18, 2002) and fewest goals allowed (four, 2002). During her three seasons as a starter (2002-04), Stanford reached the NCAA tournament each season and advanced as far as the NCAA quarterfinals (2002) during a Pac-10 championship season. Barnhart graduated with a double degree in studio art and psychology, and continues to work with the Stanford program as a volunteer assistant coach.
Hometown: Del Mar, Calif.
Stanford graduating class: 2007
International caps: 82
International goals: 3
National team: The rugged defender is a fearless ball-winner who has done her best work for the U.S. in the center of the defense. She scored her first career goal in the CONCACAF Women's World Cup Qualifying Tournament and has since scored twice more. The future medical student was named the U.S. co-captain by Pia Sundhage in 2010 - becoming the 12th captain in U.S. national team history - and is known for being a model professional with a tremendous work ethic. Buehler earned her first cap in March, 2008, and played for the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. She holds the nickname of Buehl-Dozer.
Stanford: Buehler was a two-time second-team NSCAA All-American in 2006 and '07 and the 2007 ESPN Scholar-Athlete of the year. The three-year team captain was a two-time All-Pac-10 first-team choice under current Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe. Stanford reached the NCAA tournament in each of her four seasons (2003, 2005-07), advancing as far as the third round (2006, `07).
Hometown: Fayetteville, Ga.
Stanford graduating class: 2010
International caps: 19
International goals: 0
National team: After beginning her national team career as a forward and switching to midfield, O'Hara has finally found a home at left outside back. In 2011, she was an alternate to the World Cup team, but was added to the roster as a late replacement for Lindsay Tarpley, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee late in an exhibition against Japan. O'Hara brings great energy and fitness to her position, and has improved on her defending skills while also a constant threat to attack. O'Hara earned her first cap in March, 2010 after starring for the U.S. U-20 team, for which she scored 24 goals in 35 international matches.
Stanford: O'Hara is Stanford's single-season record-holder for points (65) and goals (tied with Christen Press with 26). She led Stanford into its first NCAA championship final in 2009 and was awarded the prestigious Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy as college soccer's best player that season. O'Hara was a first-team NSCAA All-America in 2009, and a first-team ESPN Academic All-America. She majored in science, technology, and society.
July 25, vs. France, in Glasgow, Scotland, 9 a.m. PT (NBC Sports Network, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel)
July 28, vs. Colombia, in Glasgow, Scotland, 9 a.m. PT (NBC Sports Network, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel)
July 31, vs. North Korea, in Manchester, England, 9:15 a.m. PT (NBC Sports Network, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel)
Club: Malmo (Sweden)
Hometown: Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Stanford graduating class: 2010
International caps: 62
International goals: 1
National team: At age 24, Riley already is a two-time Oceania Player of the Year and four-time New Zealand Player of the Year. Riley, whose father John is from New Zealand, made her debut for the Football Ferns in January, 2007, at age 19. This is the second Olympics for Riley, who also played in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.
Stanford: After beginning her Stanford career as a forward, Riley was shifted to outside back as a junior and developed into one of the most valuable players on two NCAA College Cup teams. With her speed and fitness, Riley was able to attack up the wing and quickly retreat into defensive position. She was named the Pac-10 Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year for soccer in 2009, the same season she earned third-team NSCAA All-America and first-team All-Pac-10 honors.
New Zealand schedule
July 25, vs. Great Britain, in Cardiff, Wales, 8 a.m. PT (MSNBC)
July 28, vs. Brazil, in Cardiff, Wales, 6:30 a.m. PT (NBC Sports Network, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel)
July 31, vs. Cameroon, in Coventry, England, 11:45 a.m. PT (NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, tape-delayed, 4:45 p.m. PT)