Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - November 26, 2010

Levin has done everything for top-ranked Stanford

Junior hopes to continue an 'MVP' season in NCAA Elite Eight

by Rick Eymer

Junior Camille Levin is to the Stanford women's soccer team what your local handywoman is to the neighborhood. She's the one who fixes things, putting things back in working condition.

Maybe she's not so well known around the soccer world, but she is certainly appreciated by her teammates.

If there were such a thing as MVP (for the most versatile player), Levin would probably win it by default.

During her tenure at Stanford, she's played 10 of the 11 positions on the soccer field. She has no interest in becoming another Kira Maker or Emily Oliver. In fact, she's never even had an impulse to stand in front of a net unless she was about to head in a corner kick.

An All-American high school player and United States Junior National Team veteran, Levin was asked to play center middle as a freshman at Stanford. She'd never played there before. Her prep career was at outside back.

As the roster evolved, she found herself adapting to other positions. Sophomore outside back Rachel Quon missed two games last year so Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe asked Levin to fill in.

When sophomore Courtney Verloo was moved to defense this year, it was Levin who moved to the forward line.

"I've prepared for wherever," Levin said as the top-ranked Cardinal (21-0-2) prepares for its NCAA Elite Eight match against visiting Florida State on Friday at 7 p.m. "I'm never 100 percent sure where I'll be playing. But I'm used to that. I spent my whole life on a club team playing numerous positions."

Levin helped the Stanford defense record 13 shutouts and allow a total of 11 goals, or 0.467 per game, third in the nation.

Offensively Levin ranks second with 10 assists, behind Palo Alto grad Teresa Noyola's 12. Levin is fifth with 12 points.

Considered the best tackler on the team, Levin can also exploit an opponent's defensive weakness and make a run to the goal.

She may be part of the best trio of players 5-foot-3 in the nation together with Quan and Noyola.

"I can't say enough about Christen Press, who is one of the best players in the country and scores a ton of goals," Levin said. "But I think a lot of teams feel that if they stop her, it gives them a better chance of winning. We have other talented players who have stepped up and if one doesn't score, another one will. They are too many threats on our team to think someone can stop us by stopping one or two people."

The NCAA tournament is a perfect example. Press took 25 shots before recording her first postseason goal, which came last Friday in a 3-0 win over UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. Of course, she only needed two more shots to record her second.

Five different players scored goals, and four others recorded an assist before Press got on the scoreboard.

Alina Garciamendez has started 23 games for the Cardinal, but other goal scorers Sydney Payne, Taylor McCann, Nina Watkins and Marjani Hing-Glover combined to start six games this season.

Payne and Levin each have two assists in the tournament, while Noyola, Quon and Annie Case also have points. In fact, 17 different players have at least two points on the year.

"Winning games starts with our defense," Levin said. "Our back line may have changed a few times but overall everyone has done an amazing job. Courtney has been great transitioning back there and has been extremely solid. I know people think more about scoring but that does not take away from how great the defense has been, and is, doing."

Florida State (16-5-1) ranks 24th in goals against, with an average of 0.697, a little above average compared to the others still remaining. Only Stanford, Notre Dame (11th) and Ohio State (15th), which plays each other this weekend, have better GAA percentages.

Stanford also ranks third in scoring offense with 67 goals (2.91), while the Seminoles are 33rd with 42 goals (2.00).

"If we can get the ball and make them spend energy defending us that will help," Florida State coach Mark Krikorian said. "If we let them dictate the tempo then it will be harder for us. We're looking to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner in California and see how it goes."

Florida State reached its sixth consecutive Elite Eight by beating Marquette, 3-0, last weekend. The Seminoles are hoping to reach the College Cup a fourth time and for the first time since reaching the national championship match in 2007.

"It's whoever is better that day," FSU senior midfielder Rachel Lim said. "If we lose, they were better that day. If we win, we were better that day. We can only focus on our strengths."

Florida State and Stanford have played five common opponents: North Carolina, Duke, Boston College, Georgia (exhibition for FSU) and Washington State. The Seminoles were 3-1-1 against them and the Cardinal finished 3-0-2, which includes an overtime win.

Stanford has already played three of the last eight teams remaining, and should the Cardinal advance to the College Cup, would face either Boston College or Washington in the national semifinals.

Stanford has also played Georgetown, and faced Notre Dame as recently as last year. The Cardinal has never played Oklahoma State or Ohio State and will be meeting Florida State for the first time.

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