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UNIVERSITY BEAT

Pepperdine Is Poised for a Breakthrough

November 08, 2002|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

It has been a year of firsts for the Pepperdine women's soccer program but the biggest accomplishment to date could come Saturday.

The Waves play host to San Francisco in the regular-season finale. A victory would give them the West Coast Conference championship, something no team other than Santa Clara or Portland has done in the 10 years the conference has sponsored the sport.

"The girls know what's at stake," Pepperdine Coach Tim Ward said. "Obviously, it's an awesome opportunity."

In a five-day span last month, Pepperdine (15-1-2, 5-1-0 in conference) became the first WCC team to defeat Santa Clara and Portland -- two longtime national powers -- in the same season. The victories help power the Waves to a No. 5 national ranking, the highest in school history.

A win Saturday also could land Pepperdine one of the eight national seeds when the 64-team NCAA tournament field is announced Monday. The Waves, who have a small home stadium, did not put in a bid to host any playoff matches.

"In a weird way, I would hope [the NCAA] flies us somewhere," Ward said. "If you keep all the West Coast teams out there, there's so many good teams that someone good is going to get knocked off early."

A potent, balanced offense has been the Waves' signature trait. Sophomore Ali Pavoni (10 goals, four assists), freshman Jenna Fodor (eight goals, seven assists) and Lacey Ubaldi (seven goals, nine assists) are among the top 10 scorers in the WCC. In all, Pepperdine has had 13 different players score at least one of its 49 goals.

"We do encourage attacking soccer," Ward said. "A lot of the girls we recruit are attacking players. I believe in letting players do what they naturally do well."

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UCLA's Ryan Futagaki and Nandi Pryce are among 15 finalists for the Hermann Trophy, which honors the top men's and women's soccer players in the country. Futagaki, a senior midfielder, has helped lead the Bruins to a No. 5 ranking. Pryce, a junior, leads a defense that has recorded 10 shutouts and given up only 11 goals.

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UCLA senior middle blocker Angela Eckmier will be lost for the remainder of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during practice Tuesday. Eckmier missed the 2000 season because of the same injury.... Long Beach State lost sophomore point guard Mark Bowens for the upcoming season because of a torn ACL suffered Oct. 27 in practice. Bowens was battling Darnell Thompson and Jibril Hodges for the starting position.

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This Week

WOMEN'S SOCCER

Today -- No. 4 UCLA at Washington, 7 p.m.; UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m.

Saturday -- San Francisco at No. 5 Pepperdine, 1 p.m.

Sunday -- No. 15 USC at Washington, noon.

MEN'S SOCCER

Today -- No. 5 UCLA at No. 9 California, 2:30 p.m.

Saturday -- Cal State Northridge at UC Irvine, 7 p.m.

Sunday -- Gonzaga at No. 23 Loyola Marymount, 1 p.m.; No. 15 UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside, 1 p.m.; UCLA at No. 19 Stanford, 3:30 p.m.

WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL

Saturday -- Loyola Marymount at No. 10 Pepperdine, 7 p.m.; No. 9 Long Beach St. at Pacific, 7 p.m.

Tuesday -- Pepperdine at No. 19 UCLA, 7 p.m.

MEN'S WATER POLO

Friday -- No. 9 Long Beach State at No. 2 (t) UCLA, 3 p.m.

Saturday -- No. 5 Pepperdine at No. 1 California, 10 a.m.; No. 4 USC at No. 2 (t) Stanford, 1 p.m.; No. 6 UC Irvine at No. 10 UC San Diego, 6 p.m.

WOMEN'S SWIMMING

Today-Saturday -- Trojan Diving Invitational, McDonald's Swim Stadium, 10 a.m.

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