Aug. 18, 2011
BERKELEY - The California women's soccer team is set to host Pepperdine and San Diego State this weekend to open the 2011 campaign. In the midst of a busy training schedule and photo day, CalBears.com caught up with Neil McGuire to get the lowdown on the Golden Bears this year.
CalBears.com: Run us through camp. How did it go?
Neil McGuire: It went very well. The players came in very prepared. They were physically fit and were very motivated. The team chemistry, right from the get go, was fantastic. We're very pleased with how preseason went.
CalBears.com: The leading scorer for the past four seasons - U.S. senior team member Alex Morgan - graduated in December. How do you look to fill that void this year?
NM: There are a number of players on our team that I think are capable of scoring a lot of goals. I don't see us having one or two players who score 15-16 goals this year. This season, you'll see goals by committee. I don't think we have one player in particular that has shown themselves to score more than others. I think we have a lot of people who are very dangerous in the field. Right now, we've got six or seven forwards who have shown themselves very well in preseason.
CalBears.com: How's the defense looking? Obviously, you have senior co-captain and three-year starter Danielle Brunache to lead things back there.
NM: Danielle has a whole host of experience that no one else does. Thelma [Bjork Einarsdottir] comes in with a lot of international experience in the left back position. We're going to have a number of people in the center back spot that can do a tremendous job. Amanda Glass is at the best I've seen her thus far in her Cal career. Kaitlin Paletta is healthy and obviously very talented. She's healthy for the first time in her career. She had an incredible preseason, and I think she's obviously a player that we want on the field. Sandra Ley and Rachel Clark can also do a tremendous job in that spot. Genessee Daughetee and Sam Walker are also going to give us very good time on the outside flank position, either at right back or left back.
CalBears.com: How about the midfield?
NM: Betsy Hassett, bringing the experience she got in the World Cup over the summer, is going to help lead our midfield. Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, Katie Suits, Taylor Comeau and Kate Bennett all had great preseasons so it's going to be competitive. Any one or all of them could do a very good job. We'll have to see how things go as the season starts and progresses.
CalBears.com: You've got four goalkeepers to choose from this season. How do you see that shaking out?
NM: Emily Kruger has come in and done a very good job. She looks strong, fit and focused. Kat Messinger is finally healthy after a long battle with injury last year. She and Lauren Hein are going to fight for number two. Jenna Brennan is a very talented goalkeeper as well, and will be a great asset to our program.
NM: The transition has been very, very smooth. Patrick and Kelly are both very experienced coaches. Patrick coached at a very high level at the national team level, in Olympic Development and at the collegiate level. Kelly, of the same vein, has done a very nice job. Cori has been with us since the spring and acclimated wonderfully. She can relate to the players and has so much experience on a multitude of levels. I think the information is consistent with what we've been teaching over the last four years. We're looking forward to the start of the season.
CalBears.com: What kind of differences are there between last year and this season?
NM: I think every team that we've had in my time at Cal has been extremely talented. I think we have a large squad of talented players who are healthy. I think if you have a healthy squad, you can have success. You never know when injuries are going to strike. But if we can stay healthy then that's going to give us a great advantage.
CalBears.com: This is the second full season with the "Live Like Champions" mantra. How's that going?
NM: We continue to be grounded in our philosophy of living like champions. Our players have done a fantastic job with that both academically, in their community service and the way they're with each other. The chemistry on the team is as good as I've ever seen it here. Live Like Champions is at the core of everything we do. The student-athletes did a great job academically over this last year, raising the team GPA. Their community service last year was nothing short of magnificent.
CalBears.com: Enough team talk. Let's discuss the nonconference schedule.
NM: I think it will be a test for us. Opening up with Pepperdine and San Diego State is really going to allow us to see what we have. We'll enjoy the trip to Hawaii but North Dakota State and Hawaii will be no easy games. We've got real challenges in Denver, Kent State and San Francisco. Santa Clara is our nonconference foe that we play every year. We'll also sneak in Long Beach State, which has also proved to be a worthy opponent. All of it will give us great preparation for the conference schedule.
CalBears.com: It's the first year of the Pac-12. How do see things going with that?
NM: I think the one of the things that we've noticed over the past couple of years is that anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Stanford is very clearly very successful and has been very good over these last couple of years. They've shown dominance. But it literally doesn't matter who you're playing. The Pac-10, and now the Pac-12 games are always a real challenge.