The collegiate sports landscape of California has a lot to be thankful for. Historically speaking, USC has dominated in football; UCLA is basketball royalty, and smaller schools like Cal State Fullerton and UC-Irvine are perennial baseball powerhouses.
It might be time to start paying attention to another small school program in the California area; Pepperdine Women’s Soccer. With a total student enrollment of just over 3,500, the Malibu based institution is creating a buzz.
Pepperdine, ranked 22nd by BR, are 6-1-1 overall in the West Coast conference. The team returns 18 players and brings in eight newcomers from last year’s squad that went 10-7-2 overall and 5-4-0 in the West Coast Conference. The Waves were tabbed fourth in the WCC Coaches poll led by BYU, the defending league champions.
The Waves have pulled off exciting finishes and historic feats already on the young season. The school beat Kentucky; ranked 29th by HeroSports at the time, 3-2 in OT after a late goal with 32 seconds left by the Wildcats sent it to the extra session. A game-winning goal by Senior Lynn Williams two minutes into the period rallied Pepperdine to a non-conference victory.
The team made a statement when they beat BR-8 North Carolina Tar Heels, 1-0 back in late August on the foot of Williams again. The Tar Heels have won 21 of the 31 NCAA Women’s Soccer National Championships and have produced stars such as Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly.
Williams and Senior Ally Holtz return as leading scorers for the Waves looking for their first NCAA appearance and first national championship. Both players received All-WCC honors as juniors with Williams being named 1st team and Holtz 2nd team. Williams, who was named to the preseason MAC Hermann watch list for the best player in Women’s Soccer, led the team in goals (11) and the WCC in goals per game with 0.73. She also was tied for second in the league in game winning goals and third in points per game (1.67). Holtz was first on the squad in assists (4) and second in goals (6) finishing with 16 total points.
Despite the returning the bulk of their scoring, the Waves are equally impressive in goal with Sophomore Hannah Seabert. The keeper contributed to a 397 minute opponent scoreless streak dating from the season opener against Cal Poly to a matchup with BR-1 UCLA, good for five complete games.
Seabert’s 114 saves were the second-most in school history and good for a .809 save percentage. Her percentage, total saves, and saves per game all ranked at the top of the conference despite being just a freshman.
The Waves have potential to do serious damage after they face BR-15 USC on Sunday. None of Pepperdine’s remaining opponents are ranked higher than 28th by HeroSports. The conference pick, BYU, is ranked 30th and will face the Waves in the final game of the season in November.
With senior leadership on offense and a young net-minder with the poise of an upperclassman, Pepperdine might put its mark on the map. Not just in the state of California, but on the national scene as well.