Looking to make their own kind of music
Stanford opens season at No. 2; hopes to end it at No. 1
There's been some talk among Stanford women's soccer players about forming a musical group to entertain themselves during the season. There's even a name for the group should it come to pass: 'Soccapella.'
Palo Alto grad and Stanford senior Teresa Noyola would love that. She's proficient at jazz drums and the guitar and there's a video circulating of her singing.
Castilleja grad Lindsay Taylor and fellow senior Lindsay Taylor has yet to hear Noyola, but she's pretty sure her teammate is still better at soccer than singing.
From all accounts Noyola is a pretty good musician, so her soccer abilities have to be right up there with the best.
Well, for starters, she is a two-time first team All-American, and she joined teammate Alina Garciamendez on Mexico's national team that played in the World Cup this past summer.
While at Palo Alto she was named the national Player of the Year, by two different publications. So, yes, she has the soccer credentials. But what of her musical ambitions?
"I'm playing guitar mostly right now," Noyola said. "It's a little easier. I'd like to get back to the drums."
Noyola is encouraged by the addition of freshman Alex Doll, a talented forward out of Bethesda, Maryland. Doll was also a jazz drummer at Chevy Chase High and Noyola has thoughts of jamming with her dancing through her head.
There are other talented musical types scattered among the Cardinal roster. Junior midfielder Mariah Nogueira gets rave reviews and junior forward Marjani Hing-Glover sings Opera.
"There's a lot of us who like to pretend we can sing," sophomore goalkeeper Emily Oliver said. "We'd had some pretty sessions. We have quite the array of musical talents."
They also have quite the array of talented soccer players. Noyola and Taylor have been on three consecutive Final Four teams, the last two years reaching the championship match. They'd love to go the extra foot or so to win it all.
"It's our last year and there's a different feeling," Taylor said. "We definitely want to win a national championship but I wouldn't call it an expectation. We work hard, we have talented players and we strive to do well. We know we have to work for it. I'd call it more a drive."
Stanford (23-1-2 last year) opens its season Friday with a 7 p.m. game against visiting Penn State. The Nittany Lions won the Big 10 Conference last year.
The Cardinal seniors enter their final year with an overall 70-4-3 record, by far the most prolific of any class. Until they were freshmen, Stanford has reached the Final Four once -- in 1993.
Taylor is another returning All-American, as is Courtney Verloo and Nogueira. Noyola and Garciamendez were named to Soccer America's preseason All-American team.
Junior Rachel Quon is another top-notch defender who should get some attention for postseason honors and senior Camille Levin may be the most versatile player in the country.
Stanford played with the nation's top two players in Kelley O'Hara two years and Christen Press last year. Without those dynamic scorers, the Cardinal will be looking for a variety of ways to put the ball into the net.
"Maybe the thing that has changed the most is we'll have a more balanced attack," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "We may not have the same goal scoring punch Christen gave us but we have a lot of players capable of scoring. We have to find the right internal leadership that will, hopefully, propel us to the Final Four again."
Garciamendez served as one of the team captains last year and she's in the mix again this time around. There are, however, nine players on the roster who have appeared in two national championship matches and that's valuable experience whether they are vocal leaders or not.
"There is a tremendous amount of experience," Ratcliffe said. "Teresa has always been a leader on the field and Alina is a special player. They carry themselves so well. Those kind of players are critical to our success. Rachel Buehler (now with the national team) has an incredible work ethic, drive and perseverance. You want that kind of leadership to continue. You can demand all you want but if the players demand it of each other, it becomes a special team."
It's not just about the starters either. Ratcliffe is quick to point out players like senior Kristy Zurmuhlen, juniors Nina Watkins, Lindsay Dickerson and Madeliene Thompson and redshirt sophomore Annie Case are also part of the process that makes it all special.
Last year's highly-regarded freshmen class returns with postseason experience. It was a group that produced major contributors like Oliver, Sydney Payne, Shelby Payne and Annie Case.
Redshirt sophomore Aly Gleason, Natalie Griffin and Taylor McCann also return with valuable playing time and can help another talented group of freshmen assimilate with the team.
Redshirt freshman Kendall Romine, one of the more coveted players of her class, adds that much more depth to a group that includes Doll, Hannah Farr, Lo'eau LaBonta, Haley Rosen, Lauren Schmidt and Chioma Ubogagu, a Soccer America Freshman of Influence.
"Chioma is a dynamic attacking player with great speed and skill," Ratcliffe said. "She has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one and is a proven goal scorer."
Ubogagu was born in London and moved to the USA, with family, when she was three years old.
Noyola joined the Mexican national team for the first time. Garciamendez is a veteran.
"Not just playing in the World Cup, but training with Mexico was great," Noyola said. "They play a different style than I am used to, so it helped me become more effective."
Without Press, Noyola is also aware that others will need to step up, beginning with her.
"I know I need to score more than I did last year," she said. "Those are big shoes to fill and we'll need to find goals from different people. It will make the team more balanced. I do feel different about goal scoring and being a leader."
Verloo may become the 'X' factor in Stanford's season. Where she plays, as a defender or as a forward, may be Ratcliffe's biggest decision. An effective scorer when she arrived at Stanford, she became an All-American as a defender.
"I really like Courtney in both places," Noyola said. "We can utilize her on top, but she will be good either way."
It's a decision Ratcliffe doesn't mind making, and will likely change as the season evolves.
"You can never say one player makes the team," he said. "It's quite a challenge. My goal is to just get better every day, every game."