#19 California Women's Soccer 2012 Preview

California Golden Bears

Overall Rank: #19
Conference Rank: #3 Pac-12
California Women's College Soccer 2012 Team Preview
California Team Page


During the 2011 campaign California was stuck in the mess of teams that were behind Stanford and UCLA in the conference standings. Thanks to quality out of conference play and some decent results in Pac-12 play, most notably a nil-nil draw against UCLA, the Golden Bears still reached the NCAA Tournament. But this year, if anybody is going to catch up to the Cardinal and the Bruins, it could be Cal and Coach Neil McGuire. Although the gap between the top two and everybody else will likely still be significant.

2011 Record: 12-6-4, 5-4-2
2011 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Neil McGuire

Technically, Cal returns ten starters from last year’s squad. However, that number is a little misleading in a positive way since only two players actually started all 22 games last year. Five players are gone that started at least eight games, but only one is gone who started over half of the Golden Bears games in 2011. That leaves a lot of experienced talent returning. Lauren Battung will be the senior leader up front after netting seven goals last year. Junior Mekenna DeBack started just seven contests in 2011, but she scored five goals and is ready to step into a bigger role. Rachel Mercik, another junior, is in a similar situation after mostly coming in off of the bench as a sophomore. Add sophomores Kory Lamet and Thelma Bjork to the mix and California has plenty of scorers. Junior midfielder Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick is the playmaker of the bunch and will set up quite a few goals. She dished out seven assists last season and is not afraid to come up and take some shots either. Keep an eye out for fellow midfielders Kate Bennett and Betsy Hassett. They are not as attacking orientated as Fitzpatrick, but they can spark the offense in the midfield. Perhaps the most important returnee is keeper Emily Kruger. She had a fine sophomore season, starting all 22 contests and tallying seven shutouts. She allowed just 20 goals in those 22 games and that is very impressive in the Pac-12.

However, most of the major losses are on defense. Danielle Brunache started all 22 games in front of Kruger and she will be missed. Miranda White and Kaitlin Paletta are also gone. White was a fine back who could come up into the attack and score some goals. The back line deserves a ton of credit for the success California had in 2011 and with three contributors gone, it may take some time before the unit gels. Yet, Coach McGuire does have plenty of talented options ready to fill the void, most notably 5-8 junior Emi Lawson. A talented crop of newcomers will help out, especially UCLA transfer Ariana Martinez. Elliott Gentile is the other freshmen defender and she will compete with a handful of returning players for a starting gig, or at least quality minutes, in the back.

Final Projection:
But the bigger question is whether or not this group can take the next step and actually compete with UCLA and Stanford in the Pac-12. They did tie UCLA last year, but the Golden Bears finished sixth in the Pac-12 standings behind Oregon State, Washington State and Utah. They will need to do a better job of beating the teams they should beat. That all comes down to consistency. In 2011 Cal had to deal with only having leading scorer Katie Benz for half the year after she broke her leg. Benz pretty much came out of nowhere to emerge as Cal’s leading target up front and all of a sudden they had to change everything. It is tough to replace a player like Benz in the middle of the season. Coach McGuire and his team have had an entire offseason to figure out how to replace her and that will make a huge difference.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Tournament

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Lauren Battung, Senior, F, 7
Assists: Kaitylyn Fitzpatrick, Junior, M, 7
Shots: Lauren Battung, Senior, F, 54
Saves: Emily Kruger, Junior, GK, 62