The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for December 2, 2019

Holy cow it's December already. And once again, HOW 'BOUT THEM COUGS? Plus links and random Taylor Swift

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The College Try

Quick unsurprising BREAKING today before I get to the meat of Soccer Monday: Megan Rapinoe has won the Ballon d’Or.

Now back to regularly scheduled The IX.

The Washington State Cougars have done it again. The Cougs are headed to the College Cup for the first time ever.

Washington State (16-6-1) upset No. 2 seed South Carolina (19-2-3) in overtime on Friday night. Mykiaa Minniss, a defender, scored the lone goal in the 96th minute. South Carolina had not conceded a goal in its last seven games.

And with that, Washington State became just the fourth team since 2007 to punch a ticket to the College Cup after playing in the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

Next up for the Cinderella Cougs is No. 2 North Carolina. The semifinals will be played Friday in San Jose. Top-ranked Stanford plays UCLA in the other semifinal.

Which brings me to an informal Twitter survey I did last week about what women’s soccer fans are watching. And this isn’t scientific at all.

Turns out, a vast majority of respondents are not watching much college soccer. This kind of surprised me, because I had thought that the rise of regional sports networks and those affiliated with conferences (like the Pac-12 Network) would give rise to fans of the college game. Not so.

Folks really don’t watch college soccer at all until the tournament, if at all. Although I did get hear from a couple of Bay Area folks who watch Stanford, lamenting that they didn’t have an NWSL team to follow. Likewise, one fan said they follow both USC and UCLA because Southern California doesn’t have a pro team.

Seems to me there’s an untapped market there, riiiiggghhhht? Sacramento may remedy that soon, at least in the north.

The most mentioned schools were North Carolina and UCLA. UCLA’s Jessie Fleming and Stanford’s Catarina Macario were the most mentioned individual players.

Interestingly enough, more people also seem to follow European teams more than college teams, as those games become more accessible via streaming. One fan said she would gladly watch the W-League but those games are hard to find online.

So what does all this mean? It’s interesting for me to know as an AP reporter what people are consuming. It should also be said that women’s college soccer is much like other college sports, with the exception of football and basketball: People really don’t pay attention until the championships. Take baseball, I know a lot of fans who watch the College World Series, but not many who closely watch pay the regular season.

Of course, there are players that seem to rise above. Macario appears to be one of those. She’s even closing in on Sincy’s territory.

I may have been living in the Portland soccer bubble, but I remember Sinclair getting a lot of national buzz in her day. I did stories on her for AP. Catarina is similar.

One of the best things I’ve read about her is here, from the great Ann Killion (who wrote Hope Solo’s book).

And with that, on to a few other links!

This Week in Women’s Soccer

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

TV Commentary on how the Cougar women’s soccer team should overshadow the football team’s failure in the Apple Cup.

LA Times on the SoCal teams in the College Cup.

As the decade winds to a close, The Athletic’s Meg Linehan pulls back to take a long view of the decade of women’s soccer.

Meg also talked to the Reign’s Bill Predmore about the Lyon sale.

Nielsen Sports reports a 60 percent increase in interest in the women’s game over the last two years in the UK.

Saki Kumagai named Asian Player of the Year.

The Gaurdian’s Top 100 footballers of the year.

Your nominees for USWNT Player of the Year. Meg voted for Julie Ertz. So did Caitlin Murray. I did not. Three guesses! And no, not Rapinoe. And yes, Crystal Dunn deserved a place on this list, as Stephanie Yang notes here.

ProSoccerUSA on the USWNT identification camp . OK, I kind of have a beef here, and maybe I’m wrong, but don’t you think this puts some of the players who are in the College Cup at a disadvantage? I mean, after an entire college season to go straight into a camp? I guess the counterpoint is that they’ll all be game fit. But feels like a lot to ask.

Equalizer Soccer with the camp story here. Oh, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that The Equalizer is getting more advertisers. THIS IS AWESOME. Shows that companies value the eyeballs on the site. So check The Equalizer every day and buy a subscription for the premium content. You won’t regret it.

And finally, while I hate to bring her up again, ProSoccerUSA on Hinkle. Que it up:

Taylor and Furries. So much going on here.

Tweet of the Week

Don’t really want to give Nike free advertising. But yowza these are sweet. And Nike should so sell them to the general public.

Five at The IX: Cougs!

Finally, here are the comments from Washington State coach Todd Shulenberger, defender Mykiaa Minniss and goalkeeper Ella Dederick following the Cougs’ upset win over South Carolina.

Coach: What a great night. First of all, great environment, great soccer team, hat’s off to South Carolina, they’re unbelievable soccer team. Our girls came in here, knew we had a battle and we fought all the way to the end and, yeah, Cougs go to the Final Four. How ‘bout that?

Question: Coach, you mentioned this the first time you go to the Final Four in program history. Just what does this mean overall big picture to you and the program to be going and taking this next step?

Coach: It means a lot. I mean it’s my fifth year here with my staff and these young ladies that we brought here, you know, we’re a unique style, we’re a different style we’re a fun style, and we’re hard to play against. This team believed all along this year that we had something special and as the year grew on that unbelievable conference that we play in absolutely prepared us for this moment. Hasn’t sunk in yet but we’re extremely ecstatic that we’re going to San Jose.

Question: Mykiaa, Can you just break down that final sequence on the corner kick, what you saw?

Mykiaa: Yeah, so I usually have to stay back to defend. I looked at Todd and I was like `Let me go, Let me go and he’s like, Yeah go ahead, and I just came in super late so they didn’t see me. And as soon as I got it in, all that went through my head was like, `Oh, you got this, oh you got this,’ and then it went in and everyone was chasing me and I was like `Oh gosh, I can’t believe I just did that.'”

Question: Ella, how have you seen the program change and evolve as you’ve been here and how special is this for you now that you’ve seen it, take it to this level.

Ella: It’s so awesome. I’m just so proud of my team. We’ve overcome so much this whole entire year. We love being an underdog, you know, everyone doubts us, but we always come out and we prove them wrong.

Question: What did playing in the Pac-12 do for you guys, in that you get to see top competition pretty often. How prepared id you feel coming into the postseason?

Ella: The Pac-12 is the best conference in the nation. I have to say that, first of all. Every game is so critical that you go out and you play as hard as you can, because it prepares us for moments like this.

Question: Coach, if you could just touch on some of the adversity you guys had to face throughout the tournament, traveling across the country, staying here for several weeks just talking about that.

Coach: It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I mean, different cities, different hotels, different meals, different roommates. Different practice facilities, you know. But I’ll tell you this started probably two years ago when we went to the Sweet 16. We went to UCF and upset them, and then I told the group before we left, plan on staying for two weeks, and sure enough we made it, we just lost the Florida. So it’s not new to us. You know, we live in Pullman, you live in a great college town, a unique environment, a unique location so either you’re hosting or you’re getting out there. They keep sending us away and I’d say we like the East Coast.

Coach: Could just touch again on the journey from the start of the year to where you guys are at now, going to end the season at the College Cup, just what has this season meant to you?

Coach: It means a lot. We got a bunch of mature young ladies, Ella on my left and Mykiaa here is a young mature adult as well, and a group of leaders that have come together and have a purpose here and a goal. You know, we have a motto at our university, Cougs versus everyone, and this is the first program now to take a team to the Final Four, we want to help set the standard, and have more teams at our university go on. It’s been a great journey, again, and we’re not done. To say that we get to play North Carolina, the greatest team ever in college soccer, the greatest coach in college soccer, you guys gotta pinch me tell me this is really happening, but we’re excited to do that.

Question: How challenging, or maybe what were the challenges this last week that you did have to stay down here, you didn’t get to go home?

Coach: The challenge was probably for me to stay loose.These girls are loose, I mean they’re dancing before the game, we’re doing go karts one day we’re doing this and that. This is a group that I’ve learned to loosen up around them, which is a good thing. They’ve taught me a lot, and I’ve taught them a lot, I hope. So, you know, that was the goal, wasn’t for them but was for me, and we managed it, the staff managed it, and here we sit.

Question: Mykiaa: If you could just touch on what emotions are running through you, when you made when you made that game winner on the set piece in the first overtime there.

Mykiaa: I think the best I could explain, it’s just crazy. I didn’t expect to score, being a defender and it was just, just crazy. And having all my teammates just dogpile me, it’s insane feeling. It’s unreal.

Question: Mikaya How fun is it’s good to play in this kind of environment this stage and get to play in big games?

Mykiaa: Yeah it’s it’s it’s crazy that we’re all like setting the standard, like Todd said it’s Cougs versus everybody and I think it’s cool that we get to lay the standard down and have everybody just follow us.

Written by Annie Peterson