The preseason hit full stride for the UCLA women’s soccer team last week. The players began their official practices as the No. 1 team in the nation with several players who have also received individual award nominations.

Senior defender Abby Dahlkemper, senior midfielder Sarah Killion, senior goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland and sophomore forward Darian Jenkins were all named to the 35-player watch list for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy – the highest individual honor in college soccer.

The Bruins’ four nominations are the most for any team in the country, which gives them momentum in the preseason as they begin their title defense.

“Just being nominated on the short list feels amazing,” Dahlkemper said. “It says a lot when there’s four girls on our team on the short list too.”

Dahlkemper has become a familiar face when it comes to MAC Hermann Trophy, with this year being her third straight year on the watch list.

The center half has been a staple of the Bruin defense, only missing one game in three years as a Bruin. Her contribution at center back was vital to UCLA maintaining the lowest goals-against average last season, while also earning her the second runner-up spot in last year’s MAC Hermann Trophy race.

This is the first MAC Hermann Trophy watch list nomination for Killion and Rowland, both of whom had career years at UCLA in 2013.

Killion asserted herself as the Bruins’ main playmaker last year, creating a total of 12 assists throughout the season, including two crucial assists that helped the team overcome their quarterfinal and semifinal opponents in the NCAA Tournament. Rowland earned a reputation as a safe pair of hands in front of the Bruin goal, saving 90.3 percent of shots taken by her opponents.

Rounding out the Bruin nominees is Jenkins, who quickly emerged in her rookie season as the most prolific striker on the team, notching a total of 11 goals.

In addition to the added expectations from her MAC Hermann Trophy nomination, Jenkins also said she recognizes there will be added pressure now that she’s no longer a freshman and has a full season’s experience under her belt. But she hopes to respond by simply doing the same thing — continuing to score goals.

“I’ve had a year of doing this with all these great players,” Jenkins said. “I guess more responsibility comes … to be consistent with how I was last year, and step it up.”

The team will also begin its national championship defense as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s No. 1-ranked team in the country, something that according to Dahlkemper will only make her and her teammates work harder.

“I think the challenge now becomes ‘can we hold that position all season’,” Killion said. “Teams are going to give us their A-plus game now; we’re just going to have to deal with that and it’s going to make our team even better.”

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