As the 2021-2022 NCAA Women’s soccer season enters its second full month of play, it’s a good time to take the temperature of which squads might be contenders, and which might be pretenders. The Santa Clara Broncos shocked the nation last year en route to winning the title, and might need a Cinderella type of run this season. They gotten off to a bit of a slow start, drawing in two of their matches. They showed last year that seeding doesn’t really make a difference to them, as they marched to the championship as an 11 seed. Even still, they would probably like to find a better rhythm in their upcoming games.
Santa Clara’s Kelsey Turnbow is a special talent who will keep the Broncos relevant, but we’ll take a look at three other teams who could bring home a title this season.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State has all the incentive in the world this year to dominate the regular season and blow through everyone in the postseason.
They were the number one overall seed in last year’s NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament, and came within a hair of bringing home the title. They lost to Santa Clara in via penalty kicks, and were about as close to being a wire to wire champion as you could be without actually sealing the deal.
As one might expect, they have a boatload of talent, including two out of the seven or eight best players in the sport. Seniors Jaelin Howell and Emily Madril lead a superior Seminoles midfield. Madril’s story is particularly uplifting—she’s overcome two ACL tears to get to this point.
Although not quite at the same bracket busting level as Santa Clara, the Virginia women’s soccer team also surprised a lot of people during the postseason last year.
They started their run without the benefit of a first round bye, and ended up falling to the Seminoles in the national semifinals on penalty kicks. It gave the Cavaliers head coach Steve Swanson an excellent foundation to build on heading into 2021-2022.
Like the duo mentioned for Florida State above, Virginia also has skilled senior leadership looking to catapult the program to new heights. Forward Rebecca Jarrett and midfielder Alexa Spaanstra have received ACC and national honors before in their careers, and they would love to add a team distinction to their belt as well.
Out of the Pac-12, the UCLA Bruins look like they could be a problem down the line as well. They probably don’t have the type of high end talent that the Seminoles or Cavaliers do, but they do have a notable amount of homegrown talent to lean on this season.
Reilyn Turner out of Aliso Viejo is only a sophomore, but she burst on to the scene as a freshman. She scored 11 goals last year, which led the conference. Turner also has experience playing on the USA women’s youth national team.
Mia Fishel from San Diego was named first team Pac-12 last year, and came up big when it mattered most. She was tied for the most game winning goals in the conference, and her knack for coming through in the clutch could pay major dividends for the Bruins in 2021-2022.