In August, I reposted from tumblr my list of teams to watch this season. I got another question yesterday, early in the championship game, that reminded me of this. (A question that I will repost here if tumblr ever returns.) With the 2010 season on the books, I’d like to revisit that list.
- Santa Clara. My Broncos are back. Although they only made it to the second round in NCAAs–where they ran into the undisputed dominance of Stanford–they had a good season overall. Olivia Klei was less of a factor than I expected, but that’s because I forgot that a 12-player freshman class is seriously going influence a lineup. Injury kept Allie Vernon out all season and sidelined Jenny LaPonte halfway through. Bianca Henninger was crucial in the net, and Julie Johnston’s play earned her the WCC Freshman of the Year award. The senior class certainly provided some great leadership, but I think they leave the Broncos in capable hands for next year.
- Penn State. I know this is taking the list out of order, but wow, this was a “growing pains” kind of season for the Nittany Lions. I watched their games throughout the fall on the BigTen Network. It was frustrating. The pieces are all there for this team, but they nearly let the conference title get away from them in the end. In NCAAs, they were sent on the road to West Virginia, where they lasted until meeting the hosts in the second round. The most I can say for Penn State is that the team was consistent this season. Not always in a good way.
- Boston College. I was pretty happy with them at the beginning of the season, and all the way up through beating UNC. As leader of the pack, they got complacent and started dropping games, suffering their first loss of the season the following weekend at Virginia. My question at the start of the season was whether the Eagles could maintain their focus and continue winning now that other teams knew to be wary. I think October’s skid was the answer. They had to pull things back together for the NCAA tournament, which they did, making it as far as the semifinals where Stanford handed them a 2-0 loss.
- Stanford. Yes, Stanford was dominant this season. UCLA had no chance against them–in either of their meetings. Alex Morgan chose the USWNT over Cal, effectively taking the Bears out of the running. Oregon State would rise as the Pac 10 foe and fall defeated. Only Boston College and UNC scraped out ties from the Cardinal, but those were games played at the very start of the season. It wasn’t until the championship game that any team had the answer for Stanford’s superior talent. The Cardinal fell 1-0 in a fairly clean game to this season’s surprise, an underestimated Notre Dame team.
- Notre Dame. I’m actually going to quote what I wrote at the beginning of the season:
“Lauren Fowlkes is a senior, and who knows what position she will end up playing this year. Leon and Laddish are joining the team. Melissa Henderson might keep scoring!”
Fowlkes ended up playing everywhere but in net. Leon and Laddish were the goal-scorers in the semis and final, but Elizabeth Tucker was probably the freshman story of the season. Henderson actually lived up to the hype this year (shocking, I know!) which was good because Taylor Knaack was removed from the roster partway through the season. The Irish struggled with complacency at the end of the regular season and fell in their first game of the Big East Tournament, which gave them a week off to fix things before NCAAs.
And man, did they fix things. This is a team that needed to turn things around and actually did. Even as a Notre Dame fan impressed with their NCAA run, impressed with their second half against Ohio State in the semis, I didn’t think this year’s Irish could beat Stanford until the final started. The final consisted of two good halves of play by two very good teams, but Notre Dame was the one with the answers and the goal.
So, a third National Championship for Notre Dame. It wasn’t a stellar season, but I think that makes this year’s arc even better.
My honorable mentions, Wisconsin and Virginia, also had good seasons. Wisconsin’s was not quite as good as I thought it should have been, but Virginia’s was even better than I had hoped. I still think UVA should have been in the semis instead of Ohio State. Moot point now.