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Pac-12 Conference

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of Champions

1 thing to know about every Pac-12 women's soccer team for 2023

Jul 31, 2023
Photo of Reilyn Turner courtesy UCLA Athletics

With the start of the women's college soccer season only a few weeks away, is highlighting one thing to know about all 12 squads before they kick off their 2023 campaigns on Aug. 17.

Arizona — The Wildcats are on the upswing

UA made significant strides in head coach Becca Moros' second season, increasing its win total from five in 2021 to eight last year. Arizona's signature win came at No. 8 USC, its first victory over the Trojans since 2013.

There is no reason to think the Cats can't continue to improve, as they return fifth-year goalkeeper Hope Hisey, a majority of their starters and 71 percent of their scoring, including Nicole Dallin, who led the team with five goals last season.

Arizona narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament and will be hungry to prove its place in the postseason.

Arizona State — New scorers will need to emerge

The Sun Devils graduated their top three scorers from last season's NCAA Tournament team, including Nicole Douglas, the program's all-time leading scorer and one of the top players in the Pac-12.

Junior Keri Matthews is an obvious breakout candidate, leading all returners with three goals. And while Lucy Johnson is a defender, her ability to deliver accurate crosses and long balls will make her an integral part of ASU's attack. She led the Sun Devils with eight assists last season.

Matthews and Johnson, like Douglas, hail from England as head coach Graham Winkworth, an Englishman himself, continues to load up on international talent.

California — The Bears are back

Cal returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2022 for the first time since 2019, putting the Bears back where they belong. They once tallied 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2004 to 2017.

They are coming off their best finish in the Pac-12 since 2015 after placing fourth last season. Two players to watch are junior Karlie Lema, who finished second on the team with five goals last season, and goalkeeper Teagan Wy, who was named to the U.S. Women's Youth National Team 2023 CONCACAF U-20 Championship roster this spring.

Colorado — Let there be lights!

The Buffaloes home opener against Northern Colorado on Aug. 17 will mark the first night game in Prentup Field history. That's because lights were installed at CU's home field this offseason along with a new pitch, team dugouts and ad boards.

As far as the product on the pitch, the Buffs should be solid as usual as they have reeled off seven winning seasons in a row under Danny Sanchez, the winningest coach in program history, though they are seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2020-21.

Look for Shyra James to lead the charge. The senior returns after her 11 goals tied for the third-most in the Pac-12 last season.

Oregon — The Ducks know they need to bounce back

The Ducks surrendered a league-most 389 shots last season while taking a league-low 146, a combination that led to their lowest win total (4) since 2013.

Leading scorer Ajanae Respass (4 goals) will try to lead an improved attack that could include several members of Oregon's highly-regarded freshman class, while the defense will have to overcome the loss of Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year Leah Freeman, who led the league in saves by a huge margin.

"We are really excited about the personalities, character and overall ability within this class," head coach Graeme Abel said on signing day. "We knew we had to address the attacking options within our group to give us great flexibility and variety on the attacking side of the ball.

"Then we had additional needs in the midfield and the backline that we have been able to address with great talent and even greater potential. This is another really good class that adds to the group we already have on campus."

Oregon State  — McKenna Martinez is on a historic pace

The junior was a major bright spot for the last-place Beavers, adding 10 more goals to her ledger in 2022, giving her 22 for her career. If she keeps up that pace over the next two years, she will finish second all-time in program history. If she ups her production even just a little bit, she can break Jodie Taylor's program record of 47 goals.

Still, winning is undoubtedly more important to Martinez, who will try to help the Beavers recapture the magic they had in 2021 when they won 11 games.

Stanford — The Pac-12 champs should be even better

It might be easy to forget that the Cardinal won the Pac-12 last season since it was second-place UCLA who won the national championship. Still, Stanford will be a strong contender to repeat as the conference champion, especially because of its rising sophomore class. 

Reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Elise Evans is one of the best defenders in the country while fellow rookies Lumi Kostmayer and Jasmine Aikey led the Cardinal with 10 goals apiece last season. Throw in the return of Pac-12 All-First Teamer Maya Doms, one of the best midfielders in the country, and goalkeeper Ryan Campbell, an All-Pac-12 Third Teamer, and Stanford has the pieces to make a run for its fourth national championship.

UCLA — The Bruins are the team to beat

Not just in the Pac-12 but in the entire country. So it goes when you're the defending national champs. UCLA returns eight starters from its title team. Among them are leading scorer Sunshine Fontes (30 points), College Cup Most Outstanding Player Reilyn Turner (25 points), Most Outstanding Defensive Player and 2022 Honda Award winner Lilly Reale.

Head coach Margueritte Aozasa last season became the first rookie head coach to win a national championship. What will her squad pull off this year?

USC — The Trojans have one of the toughest schedules in the country

In addition to a stacked Pac-12 slate, the Trojans' schedule features national runner-up North Carolina, Duke — which finished last season ranked No. 6 in the country — and three other NCAA Tournament teams (Georgia, Utah Valley and New Mexico State). Not to mention two other major-conference opponents in Michigan and Purdue.

USC was upset by UC Irvine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but it otherwise was a successful year for rookie head coach Jane Alukonis. The Trojans went 12-3-3, finished third in the Pac-12 and were ranked as high as No. 8 in the polls. They also picked up signature wins against UCLA and Stanford.

Utah — The third season could be the charm

Hideki Nakada is entering his third year as Utah's head coach after winning six games in each of his first two seasons. While the Utes' overall win total has not changed during his tenure, their 2-5-4 record in Pac-12 play last season represented a four-point improvement as they went from tying for last place in 2021 to finishing eighth in 2022.

The Utes return their top two scorers in Taliana Kaufusi and Courtney Brown and will try to continue to climb the conference standings in 2023.

Washington — It's a new mix on Montlake

The Huskies were one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12 last year, but they have a revamped roster this season, having to replace six of their seven top scorers as well as their starting goalkeeper.

Nicole Van Dyke's squad added three transfers and eight freshmen to their 15 returners. Forwards Kalea Eichenberger (Cal State Bakersfield) and Ioanna Papatheodorou (UMass Lowell) both earned all-conference honors at their previous schools and should bring valuable experience to the Huskies, who have won 10 or more games in three of their last four seasons.

Washington State — The Cougs are looking to return to NCAA Tournament form

Despite being picked third in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll last season, the Cougars finished in the bottom half of the conference and missed the NCAA Tournament. Don't expect another down year.

WSU has reached the postseason in five of eight seasons under head coach Todd Schulenberger, including four of the last five before the blip in 2022.

The Cougs have plenty of talent, including All-Pac-12 selections, rising senior Margie Detrizio and rising sophomore Lily Boyden, and a highly-regarded 10-person recruiting class. Detrizio's 11 goals last season were tied for the third-most in the Conference.