The calendar says August, but University of San Diego sports teams — women and men’s soccer, volleyball, football and men and women’s cross-country — begin their respective fall seasons this month.
Starting with women’s soccer, which hosts San Jose State at 7:30 tonight and then welcomes USC to Torero Stadium at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in non-conference play, each fall team debuts before school starts Sept. 4.
Coach Ada Greenwood, whose team went 8-11-0 last year (4-4-0 West Coast Conference) has 11 new players on a roster of 23 and expressed optimism about his team’s chances with a good preseason schedule and the always competitive WCC, which begins Oct. 10 at Santa Clara.
“The biggest challenge right now is finding our identity, but we have the ability for this to be one of the more talented teams we’ve had,” said Greenwood, who until that happens, won’t soon forget his 2011 team that won USD’s lone WCC title and went to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Top returning players include Emily Dillon, Mariah Butera and Kelley McCloskey who each scored three goals last season. Greenwood has five seniors (Dillon, McCloskey, Lauren Dotson, Taylor Housley and Devany Savage) and a group of freshman that Greenwood says was part of a recruiting class resulting from the Toreros’ success in 2011.
Another season, another anticipated strong campaign expected for Coach Jennifer Petrie’s volleyball program. The 2012 co-WCC champions have a bevy of top returners, including five impact senior players. Tops on the list is middle hitter Chloe Ferrari (pictured), a 6-foot-1 standout, who’s back after an ACL injury cut her season short.
“Anytime you have a player come back from a season-ending injury, they’re so hungry,” Petrie said. “Chloe has played phenomenally for us. We’ve had Kristen Carlson and Amy DeGroot, all-conference players and MVPs, who’ve had season-ending injuries and are the type of athletes that come back stronger. Chloe’s really leading the charge in practice and it’s great to see an athlete who has the combination of desire and determination and the senior leadership. When you have all that, it can create a special year.”
Petrie also has libero C’era Oliveira, setter Rachel Alvey and middle hitter Katie Hoekman back as seniors, along with a senior transfer from the University of Miami, outside hitter Taylor Hollins. Petrie said Hollins helps fill some of the void left by the graduated Amber Tatsch and Carrie Baird. “We need the glue, the ball control, the passing and someone who knows the game. That’ll be Taylor for us this year.”
Juniors Alaysia Brown (middle/outside hitter), Sandra Lozic (outside hitter) and Alexa Banker (outside hitter/right-side player) and up-and-coming sophomores and a talented freshman class, give Petrie and her staff a good feeling about what’s possible in 2013.
They won’t waste much time learning about where they stand, either. The team opens its season Aug. 30-Sept. 1 in Hawaii. There, USD will open with University of Texas-El Paso and follow it up with an Aug. 31 meeting with Texas, the defending national champion and preseason No. 1 team in the nation. The Toreros then face host Hawaii, which is also ranked.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to play against what’s considered the best team in the nation. They didn’t lose much from last year’s team,” said Petrie of Texas. “This is a great chance to see where we’re at. We just want to compete hard.”
The Toreros again play a solid pre-conference schedule, including USD’s home-opening matches Sept. 13-14 against Eastern Washington, USC and UC Santa Barbara. Conference play begins Sept. 20 at BYU.
The beginning of Seamus McFadden’s 35th season as men’s soccer coach means one thing: he’s only focused on right now. Winning the program’s first WCC title since 2009 and reaching the NCAA quarterfinals, the deepest run for the program since McFadden’s 1992 team fell to Virginia in the NCAA title game, are good memories. But those feats belong to 2012.
But McFadden’s experience, be it good, bad or what needs to be done after a successful season make him well-prepared for navigating the Toreros’ path. Key returners include Connor Brandt, who had four goals and three assists and was a big factor in the playoffs, Sergio Lopez (four goals), Elijah Galbraith-Knapp (three), Julian Ringhof (two) and goalkeeper Drew Ilijevski.
The 2013 team has already been tabbed No. 16 in the NSCAA preseason poll and a WCC coaches poll picks the Toreros to finish second. The season opens August 30 with a 7 p.m. game at San Diego State. The Toreros face two 2012 playoff foes, Cal State Northridge (Sept. 6) and UCLA (Sept. 15), both on the road. USD opens WCC play Oct. 4 at home versus Santa Clara.
New head coach Dale Lindsey and his players continue to prepare for its season-opener, a non-conference road game Aug. 31 against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Lindsey’s debut will serve as a strong opening test for the two-time defending Pioneer Football League champions. The Toreros have PFL title aspirations again in an expanded league with 12 teams. There’s also the guarantee that the PFL champion earns an automatic bid into the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.
“We do take every game one at a time, but do we talk about the Pioneer Football League and talk about the three-peat,” Lindsey said earlier this month. “We were voted by the coaches as the preseason favorite. It’s nice, but it doesn’t mean anything. It puts a target on our backs and I like that. The expectation at the University of San Diego is always to win the conference. And this year, with the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) playoffs on top of that, it’s a bonus.”
The home opener is Sept. 7 against Western New Mexico and PFL play starts Sept. 28 at newcomer Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.
This year’s teams feature seniors Rudy Mendoza, Ciano Ordinola (pictured) and Erik Anderson on the men’s side and Jessica McCarthy (pictured), Victoria Hambley and Gillian Gorelik for the women’s team. Both Torero teams have an abundance of sophomores and juniors.
The USD teams won’t have any San Diego-area races this season, but the WCC Championship meets will be hosted in Malibu, Calif., by Pepperdine on Nov. 2. The Toreos will look to improve on their 2012 results. The men’s team finished eighth and the women were seventh at the 2012 WCC finals.
— Ryan T. Blystone
Watch fall sports teams getting ready for the season in a USD Athletics “Behind the Cape” video series.
Photos, except football, courtesy of USD Athletics