Throughout this year's NCAA women's soccer championships, espnW will be going inside the game with former NCAA, World Cup and Olympics star Brandi Chastain. Chastain is a volunteer assistant coach at her alma mater, Santa Clara University, working with her husband, head coach Jerry Smith. As a player, Chastain led the Broncos to two final four appearances in 1989 and 1990.
She also serves as an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup, an award program that recognizes the top men's and women's Division I athletics programs across 20 women's sports and 19 men's sports, including soccer. The winner of the Women's College Cup (and Men's College Cup) will earn 60 points toward the Capital One Cup.
espnW: We have a Final Four with all four No. 1 seeds -- which you correctly predicted! What does this mean for college soccer?
Brandi Chastain: No. 1, I think it's good to know that the committee got it right. When you do these things -- when there's a lot of people making choices about things -- sometimes it's hard to know whether or not those choices are the right choices about which teams are No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 and so on. I think it makes everybody feel like they got a chance at where they should have been. That's a good thing. No. 2, I think it's pretty spectacular that the No. 1s came through, because when you're No. 1, it's not easy to stay No. 1. When you have that target on your back, it's very difficult to deal with the emotions and not letting anybody down. That's pretty impressive. And I think it makes for an exciting weekend. I'm looking forward to it.
espnW: What is this week of preparation for the College Cup like for the teams?
BC: If they haven't already dealt with school issues, there's dealing with studying and getting their school affairs taken care of and making sure that they're on top of that early so that they can then just relax, prepare and be ready for the actual games and not be stressed out. No. 2, right after they won their games, the coaches have been calling other coaches to say, "Hey, you've played this team. What do you know? Is there anything that we don't see on the film that we need to know?" My husband received a few calls from Mark Krikorian from Florida State about Stanford.
espnW: Stanford is making its fourth consecutive College Cup appearance, with seniors Lindsay Taylor and Teresa Noyola leading the way. How will that experience help the Cardinal?
BC: I saw an interview with Lindsay Taylor, and she said, "OK, we've been there, this will be our fourth time, and we haven't won yet." We had some teams like that at Santa Clara, where we had gone to the final four three years in a row and never won. And it's pretty tough to deal with. Although they've never won, they've got experience getting there, and they've had successful teams that have had successful regular seasons and then great tournament runs, so that will help them.
[The players] have to separate this game from all the other games they've ever played. It's a one-game tournament from both sides of the bracket. You don't worry about the final. You don't worry about what has happened in the past. You just worry about right now. ... For some reason, semifinals seem to be more stressful than the finals. With the semifinals, you haven't made it to the finals yet, and you want to get there so bad that it weighs heavier on people than the final games do. You want to go out there and you want to win the game obviously, but you want to enjoy it. I think if you don't enjoy it, then it makes it more difficult to win that game.