Oct. 22, 2008
By Julie Ryder -
If Dick Vitale were ever to witness a Stanford women's soccer match this season, it'd be a sure bet that you would hear the words "Diaper Dandy" escape his mouth more than a few times. That's because the team's newest members, the class of 2012, have been nothing short of impressive.
Ranked the sixth-best recruiting class by Soccer Buzz, the fabulous freshmen wasted no time in elevating their games to match the pace and demands of the collegiate game, and their quick advancement and seamless integration is a big part of why the Cardinal has been so successful this season.
So far, as of Oct. 20, they have contributed 20 of the team's 48 goals, and 14 of its assists. Three of the seven have started and played every match, while the remaining three that are healthy have seen action in at least half of the team's games.
The band of rookies is led by two local standouts, Teresa Noyola (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto HS) and Lindsay Taylor (Los Altos, Calif./Castilleja School), and southern California native Camille Levin (Newport Coast, Calif./Tarbut V'Torah).
Taylor is one of the three starting forwards that have run rampant over opposing back lines this season. A brilliant finisher, she made her presence felt on The Farm immediately, scoring the team's first goal of the season in a 5-0 win over Pacific. Since then she has demonstrated she can score just about any way; a breakaway, a one-timer, with her head, or just a beautifully placed and weighted shot.
She also scores often, and has amassed a conference-leading 12 goals and six game-winning strikes. As of Oct. 20, she checks in at second on the team in points produced with 27 (12G+3A=27). Also, on three occasions she has recorded multiple-goal games, earning both goals in a 2-0 win over Georgia, her first career hat trick in a 5-0 victory at Santa Clara, and helped take down Washington State with two of the team's three goals in a shutout triumph.
"Lindsay's execution and finishing have been superb," said head coach Paul Ratcliffe
. "She also has a great physical presence on the field as well, which is something that can't be said about most players in their first collegiate season."
Along the way, Taylor's had some help from longtime teammate Noyola. Both were members of the Mountain View-Los Altos Mercury Soccer Club throughout high school, and were coached by current Stanford volunteer assistant and future Bay Area Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) coach Albertin Montoya. Together, Noyola and Taylor helped their club side capture back-to-back California Youth Soccer Association-North state championships. And so far this year on their new team, the two have been credited with earning a combined seven national team of the week honors, two Pac-10 Player of the Week accolades, and two national player of the week selections.
Twice this season, Noyola has connected with Taylor for two goals a game, and it no doubt benefits the Cardinal that they are very familiar with each other's play. Noyola hasn't limited herself to just setting up Taylor though, and has been an offensive force in her own right out of the midfield. Noyola has recorded a multiple-goal game herself, firing in two early in the season against Navy. She's also knocked in a goal against then-No. 15 Boston College, and finished a penalty kick to earn credit for the game-winner against Cal Poly at the Santa Clara/adidas Classic.
A tactically and technically gifted player, Noyola has a total of six assists, yet she is involved in almost all of the Stanford attacking sequences regardless of whether or not she gets credit on paper. She is also the team's corner-kick specialist and takes several of the team's free-kick opportunities in the attacking third of the field.
Noyola, who stands at just 5-foot-3, has also impressed Ratcliffe with her ability to adjust to the increased pace and physical nature of the college game.
"She's done an outstanding job for us," he said. "With every game, she's getting better at using her body to hold off defenders. Combine that with her intelligence, high level of awareness on the field, and technical ability to get the ball where it needs to go, she's been absolutely phenomenal."
Levin has also been solid for the Cardinal, and is the third freshman aside from Taylor and Noyola to have started all 15 games so far this season. Levin possesses qualities that may remind Stanford fans of recently-graduated Cardinal great, Rachel Buehler. The newcomer, like Buehler, makes game-changing defensive plays when called upon, is hard to knock off the ball, and can unleash bone-rattling tackles on her opponents that may cause them to think twice about challenging her again.
Oh, and she can score too. Levin, a true defender, began her career on the Stanford back line, but has since been moved into a holding midfield position. In her new spot, she has notched four goals and three assists, with two of those goals coming against Oregon State.
"Playing midfield was a new thing for her, but she's such a quality player that the transition was completely smooth and her confidence is building with every game," said Ratcliffe.
Levin has shown the rest of the country how good she is too, earning national team of the week honors from Soccer Buzz and Soccer America for two different weeks, and was named the Santa Clara/adidas Classic tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"Camille is an integral part of our team," said Ratcliffe. "She's our best tackler and one of the best playmakers on field. She can be the difference in the outcome of a game."
Three midfielders round out the remaining healthy freshmen. Shira Averbuch (Upper Montclair, N.J./Montclair HS) and Lindsey Forte (Winnetka, Calif./El Camino HS) have seen significant time on the field, as each has appeared in 12 games. Kristy Zurmuhlen (Walpole N.H./Fall Mountain Regional HS) has also gotten a taste of collegiate action, seeing time in seven matches. Averbuch has contributed two assists, while Forte and Zurmuhlen have yet to appear on the score sheet.
"All three of those players have really impressed me in training sessions and game situations," said Ratcliffe. "Shira can have a major impact on the field. She is an excellent possessor of the ball and wins very important tackles in the midfield. Forte has done really well for us and is a bright spot for the team. She will be a major contributor in the future. Also, Kristy has a great work ethic and has the potential to be a good player for us; she is making positive strides in training."
The final freshman, Katie Finley (San Diego, Calif./Francis Parker School), has yet to see any game action and will most likely redshirt the season. Finley suffered an unfortunate knee injury before beginning with Stanford, and is spending time working hard to recover and return to training.
"Katie is a really, really good player, but hasn't had the opportunity to showcase what she can do for us yet," explained Ratcliffe. "I look forward to her coming back healthy and strong and ready to contribute next season."
With so much young talent, Ratcliffe may have found the missing pieces in his puzzle, as this year's version of the Cardinal looks to have the best chance to reach the College Cup of any team in the history of the program. Stanford has only been in the final four once, back in 1993 when Julie Foudy still laced up her boots for the cardinal and white, and then came closest to reaching it again with the 2002 club, but narrowly missed, falling in the quarterfinals to Portland in penalty kicks.
But that was prior to when Ratcliffe took over in 2003, and while he has fielded top-notch teams, his squads struggled to advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament until 2006. That year, the unit made it to the third round, but again fell prior to its expectations, and last season, suffered the same premature ending.
But that's history. This is now.
Ratcliffe has a side full of his own recruits, and of all the teams he's headed over his six seasons on campus, never has one seemed to be as well-suited as this one to bring home Stanford's first women's soccer national championship. And a lot of the reason why the Cardinal is such a top contender for the title can be attributed to his outstanding freshmen.
"They've had such a great impact on our team, and they've fit in well," said Ratcliffe. They're a great group of kids who can play and who have such great attitudes."
Ratcliffe doesn't have to say it though, the way they have performed on the field this season speaks for itself.