Taylor and Noyola have been teammates with each other for so long, it's as though they're twins. Their first two years with the Stanford women's soccer team have been nothing short of phenomenal, but for the two local players (Taylor graduated from Castilleja, Noyola from Palo Alto), there's still a sense of unfinished business.
They've visited the Women's Cup (a.k.a. NCAA Final Four) twice, reaching the championship game last year. There's at least one achievement that remains unaccomplished.
"There's definitely a target on our backs after reaching the Final Four the last two years," Taylor said. "It's a target we're willing to receive. Right now we're just trying to get the team to jell. We have a bunch of great freshmen."
Taylor's health won't be an issue as the season opens next Friday (Aug. 20) with a road trip that starts with seventh-ranked Boston College, continues to Boston University and winds up in Chapel Hill with a rematch against top-ranked and defending champion North Carolina and a match with Duke.
"We're going to be tested early and often," sad Taylor, who underwent hip surgery two weeks after Stanford's 1-0 loss to the Tar Heels last Dec. 6. She played all year with the injured hip, though she never played a full 90 minutes.
"She played at 75 percent," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "Obviously she's helped the team a lot. If she's at 100 percent, she could make an impact like she did as a freshman."
Taylor led the Pac-10 with 16 goals as a freshman and was named first team All-American by the NSCAA.
Taylor spent eight months away from competitive soccer, the longest span she's been unable to play the sport since picking it up at the age of six.
Taylor actually waited until after taking her finals to have the surgery, and then spent a few months of down time before beginning physical therapy. She returned to soccer activities at the beginning of summer.
"There were times it was hurting last year but it was good enough that I could play," she said. "I've recovered pretty well. I'm feeling good."
Taylor is expected to assume more of an offensive role with the graduation of National Player of the Year Kelley O'Hara (who, with Olympian Ali Riley, has returned to serve as an undergraduate volunteer coach).
"We're definitely going to miss Kelley but Christian (Press) is a great player too," Taylor said. "We're used to playing together and we'll have a good front line."
Press joined O'Hara as the best one-two punch in the nation last year. The senior striker recorded the second-highest scoring season in Stanford history, with 21 goals and 16 assists for 58 points (to O'Hara's 26-13-65) and ranked third in the nation in points.
Taylor also welcomes younger brother, Matt Taylor, to Stanford this season. The Bellarmine Prep grad joined the Stanford men's team.
"I'm excited about that," she said. "We haven't attended school together since elementary school. We're pretty close and I think he'll enjoy it."
The siblings played a lot of 1-on-1 soccer and worked out together over the years. She attended many of his high school games.
"I could get him for a lot years but it's evened out," Taylor said.
Noyola, who was third on the team in scoring last year, spent four months away from soccer while a freshman at Palo Alto, her longest absence from the sport. She's more than made up for it since, playing with various U.S. national teams.
Noyola, a musician in her spare time, joined Cardinal teammates and sophomores Courtney Verloo and Rachel Quon with the 20U national team that reached the quarterfinals of the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup before losing to Nigeria on penalty kicks.
Stanford sophomore Alina Garciamendez played for, and captained, the U20 Mexican national team that also reached the quarterfinals. Garciamendez is also a member of the full Mexican national team.
"Being able to play against the best players in the world helps prepare us well," Noyola said. "In terms of speed and the level of sophistication it's a higher level. And we're training with the best players and learning from the best coaches."
Noyola, Quon and Verloo will be seeing many of their U.S. teammates over the course of the season. She has developed friendships with players from Boston College, North Carolina and Portland among others.
"Soccer is really not that big of a community," said Noyola, who was born in Mexico but raised in the U.S. "I've played with a lot of players who are in college now and some since I was 14."
Taylor has been a steady teammate since the earliest days of competition.
"We know each other's style of play and are deeply connected," Noyola said. "When she's on the field, good things happen."
Good things happen when Noyola gets an opportunity to take a free kick somewhere near the goal. At least twice last year, and once during the NCAA tournament, she's reached the back of the net off a free kick on a shot that seems to sharply curve over everybody's head and just out of the reach of the goalkeeper.
That's not an accident.
"I practice the free kick on my own and it's part of my game," she said. "I want to take advantage of it because it can be such a weapon. I'm very confident taking them and always look for the situation."
Noyola thinks Taylor and Press will do just fine with whomever they play. Verloo seems to have an edge on the third forward position.
"There's a lot of speed up top, good vision and the ability to play with each other," Noyola said. "For the most part we have to make sure to use our advantages and not expect anything."
In addition to Ali Riley and O'Hara, Stanford also lost Alicia Jenkins, Hillary Heath, Katie Riley, Katie Finley, Lindsay Forte and Kristin Stannard.
Ratcliffe hopes his recruiting class can make an immediate impact. Those players include Shelby Payne, Sydney Payne, Natalie Griffen, Taylor McCann, goalkeeper Emily Oliver, and defender Kendall Romine.
"They are all top recruits and great players," Ratcliffe said. "Traditionally, freshmen have come in and made an immediate impact. It's what positions we need and who plays the best."
Romine wears a boot on her right ankle, the result of a high school injury. She tried to practice the first few days of training camp but felt some discomfort in the ankle and has backed off.
In addition to Press, the senior class consists of returning starting goalie Kira Maker, returning starting midfielder Allison McCann, and midfielder Morgan Redman, who appeared in 20 games last year.
Joining Taylor and Noyola in the junior class are returning starter Camille Levin, Shira Averbach, and Kristy Zurmuhlen.
Quon, Verloo and Garciamendiez are joined by fellow sophomore Lindsay Dickerson, Nina Watkins, returning starter Mariah Nogueira, Madeline Thompson and Marjani Hing-Glover.
Aly Gleason and Annie Case return as redshirt freshmen.
"Every team has its own chemistry," Ratcliffe said. "Things change when you lose a player and when you add a player. We have to put in the work if we want good results. In the back of our minds we know we are capable but you can never lose sight of the process on a daily basis."