Before every game, the members of Cal’s women’s soccer team are allowed to enter into an online log the names of four guests they’d like to give complimentary tickets to for that day’s match.
Normally four tickets is more than enough, but for this weekend’s game at San Diego State, Laurie Gartrell will need to borrow ticket allotments from many of her teammates.
That’s because Gartrell will experience a homecoming this weekend, as the La Jolla resident and former soccer star at The Bishop’s School returns home to San Diego when her Cal Bears visit San Diego State on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is at noon on the campus of San Diego State, and she expects to leave as many as 20 tickets for family, friends, former high school and club teammates, and former teachers and coaches. “I already had one of my high school teachers e-mail me today,” Gartrell said with a laugh early in the week of the game. “He was planning on coming and bringing his family.”
Gartrell, a senior center midfielder for Cal, will get to play in San Diego for the first time in her college career this weekend. While she has had plenty of opportunities to play in Southern California against Pac-10 opponents USC and UCLA, this trip to face non-conference opponents Cal State Fullerton and San Diego State will mark her first trip so close to home playing the sport she loves.
“I’m really, really excited, because I’ve been waiting my whole time in college for people at home to be able to come see me play,” Gartrell said. “Usually my family travels with me to a lot of games, but it will be nice for my older sister to be able to watch me. I’m really excited to be able to come down and play here.” Gartrell graduated from Bishop’s in 2004, and played on plenty of good teams with the Knights, advancing as far as the CIF San Diego Section semifinals one season. With Bishop’s, she led the team in goals and assists all four years, and was a four-time all-league, all-CIF and team Most Valuable Player selection.
She played for the under-17 Adidas national team, including on the 2003 European tour, and also played on Olympic Development Program and Cal State South teams.
Gartrell also starred on the club soccer scene, as a dominant player with the San Diego Surf, recognized as one of the nation’s top club soccer programs year in and year out. It was with the Surf that she played in state championships and national competitions, which she said ultimately prepared her for a college career playing at the top level and for a team that has consistently been ranked in the top 25 during her tenure there.
“That was what was really important,” she said. “We played a lot of high-level soccer with the Surf.” Gartrell’s career at Cal has been a solid one. As a freshman, she played in 20 games and recorded a game-winning goal against Colgate. The following season, she was named to the Pac-10 All Academic honorable mention team and scored a goal in a first-round NCAA tournament game. Last year, Gartrell repeated the conference academic honor and started in 12 of 22 games, including both of the Bears’ NCAA tournament contests.
Cal entered the week of Sept. 10 ranked 16th in the country in the National Soccer Coaches‚ Association (NSCAA)/adidas poll with a 4-0 record thanks to wins over Columbia, Colorado College, Cal State Bakersfield and Vermont. After Sunday’s game at San Diego State, the Bears will have four more non-conference games before opening their Pac-10 schedule, the biggest of those out-of-conference games being a matchup on Sept. 30 with perennial national power and regional rival Santa Clara, which should provide a solid early-season test before conference play begins.
Gartrell said she’s excited for the showdown with the nation’s No. 9 team, which should test Cal’s mettle in the early going.
“We expect a trend of improvement throughout the season,” Gartrell said.
The Bears are off to a good start, and Gartrell is hoping they climb up the polls as the season goes on. “We’ve had a little adversity because we have a new coach, but the transition has been really easy,” she said. “It’s just been about getting all the players on the same page.”