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'Eaters aiming higher

With proven talent stocking the lineup, Juniper's fourth season at helm could be monumental.

August 19, 2010|Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
  • Danielle de Seriere is a senior goalkeeper for UC Irvine this season.
Danielle de Seriere is a senior goalkeeper for UC Irvine… (Courtesy UCI, Daily…)

College coaches often look to other campuses to find inspiration and role models when it comes to fashioning success. UC Irvine women's soccer coach Scott Juniper, however, merely peeks down the hall of the school's athletic offices.

Juniper, in his fourth year, said he and his players have benefitted from the example set by the UCI men's program, which Coach George Kuntz has guided to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including two Big West Conference tournament crowns and one regular-season conference title.

It's the Big West tournament that Juniper and his players have focused on his first three seasons at the helm, and the Anteaters have qualified for the four-team postseason event two of the last three seasons, including last year. But, coming off a 12-7-2 campaign that included an eight-game unbeaten streak, nine shutouts and 37 goals to the opponents' 29, expectations have been raised for this season.

"There's a significant change in the mentality this year," said Juniper, who returns 12 of the 14 players who registered at least one goal and/or assist in 2009, including the top four scorers. "[My players] know what it takes to win the conference now. I don't think they did the last three years. We had a team meeting last week and close to 100% stated that winning a Big West Conference championship is what they want to do this year."

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Toward that end, the Anteaters may have one of the most proven scoring arsenal in the conference, in which they were picked to finish third by a preseason vote of the coaches.

Tanya Taylor, a senior forward, and Dana Sanderlin, a sophomore midfielder, return after both producing a team-best six goals and four assists last season.

Sophomore midfielders Devon Delarosa (four goals and five assists) and Mar Rodriguez (five goals, including four game-winners, and two assists) are also back to give opposing goalkeepers some sleepless nights.

Junior Lexi Kopf (two goals and two assists) figures to start alongside Taylor up front, while Juniper said several other weapons may be utilized, based on the kind of skill sets might be needed in any given match.

Taylor and Sanderlin were second-team all-conference performers, while defensive midfielder Judy Christopher, now a junior, earned first-team All-Big West laurels in 2009.

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