While Schott Recovers, Hamm Shines





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If anyone thought the Cal women's soccer would be 5-1-1 and ranked No. 5 this early in the season, they surely would not have expected that it would be without senior All-American Laura Schott.

Schott, who led the Bears in scoring each of the past three seasons and could finish as Cal's all-time points and goals leader, has missed all but one game this season because of suspension and injury.

And even coach Kevin Boyd admits he never would have guessed that Cal's leading scorer this season would be a freshman who joined the team to compete for a defensive spot on the roster.

Tracy Hamm, who played mostly midfielder before joining the Bears, now leads the team in scoring with 12 points and six goals.

Before we go any further, let's set the record straight.

She is not related to U.S. national team star Mia Hamm, arguably the most famous women's soccer player in the world.

"I probably get asked that at least once a day," Hamm laments. "But it's just a funny coincidence."

Okay? So don't ask.

After Schott suffered a sprained MCL in practice three weeks ago, Boyd decided to try the speedy Hamm up front .

"We wanted pace, basically," Boyd explains. "After we lost Laura we wanted someone up top with the speed to get behind defenders and be scary. (Tracy) has absolutely done that for us."

Hamm's performances this season, particularly her three-goal game last Sunday against Fresno State, have made Boyd look very smart. That was Cal's last hat trick since Schott pulled one in 2000.

Hamm's last two goals against Fresno State showcased her speed above all else.

Playing in oppressive 100-degree heat, she twice beat Bulldog defenders on through balls for uncontested breakaways.

Even though all three goals that day were officially unassisted, Hamm seems to have already learned one of the secrets of any successful goalscorer-praising her midfielders for setting her up.

"I missed so many shots it had to happen," she says. "I was so tired by the third goal, but my teammates just kept giving me opportunities."

Though Hamm may be putting away goals like a veteran forward, it took some adjusting to learn the position.

"At first she didn't know where to run," Boyd says. "We tried to give her a crash course in two days of training. But, to her credit, she hung with it and has already come a long way."

Hamm admits it took some time to warm up to her new position.

"I'm starting to actually like forward," she says. "I hated it at first, but as I keep learning I enjoy it more."

Considering her lack of experience, Hamm has shown a remarkable ability to be in the right place at the right time, a quality that is usually the mark of the most experienced attackers.

In Cal's 2-1 victory over defending champion Santa Clara two weeks ago, she found herself in perfect position to take the rebound of a Brittany Kirk shot that bounced off the crossbar and put it away for the winning goal.

After scoring against both Ohio State and Purdue early in the season, Hamm was named to the Soccer Buzz Elite Team of the Week.

Also responsible for the only goal in a 1-0 win against Texas A&M, Hamm has played a significant factor in the majority of Cal's games.

However, the young freshman maintains a modest approach.

"I'm just excited to be on the field," she says.

Meanwhile, only six goals away from the Bears' career record, Schott has spent the beginning of her senior year watching her team win from the sidelines.

Schott practiced with the team yesterday and may see some playing time on the road trip this weekend.

Though Schott obviously wants to get back on the field and help her team win, she has praised Hamm for stepping up during her absence.

Hamm has been put in the strange position of replacing her high school idol.

"I basically grew up watching Cal soccer," Hamm, an East Bay native, says. "Watching Laura play last year made me so excited that I was coming to play here."

Largely because of Hamm's play, Boyd has had the luxury of being conservative with Schott's return. But whenever Schott becomes healthy, don't be surprised if Hamm is moved back to another position.

With fellow freshman and forward Dania Cabello also playing well, Hamm will most likely see time at midfielder or even back on defense where she started.

"Even though (Hamm) is doing well up top, I don't know that we're getting everything we can out of her," Boyd says. "(She) is as or more dominant at the other positions than she is at forward."

While Tracy has enjoyed her time in Schott's shoes, she is more than willing to switch back to her original spot on the field.

"I would be honored to play with Laura up top, but I'm probably going to get the boot," Hamm jokes. "I really like playing forward but they can put me wherever they want. I don't care as long as I'm helping the team."

Hamm has done more than help the team this far, but she hasn't gone at it alone.

Part of the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation according to Soccer Buzz, Hamm has fit nicely into a class that has exceeded even those expectations.

"We knew we had a strong (recruiting) class, but boy they've impacted us in a hurry," Boyd praises. "They have done better early on than anyone would have expected them to do."

And even with the many new faces making an impact on the team, Hamm and the others have found a way to complement the many returning veterans.

Cal returns 18 letterwinners and eight starters from last year's team.

"All the veterans really help us out," Hamm says. "They make everything fun."

Boyd made sure it worked out that way from the get go.

"We do a lot of work early on to make sure our team is one and looks at themselves as one," he said. "I think our returners have done a great job in terms of setting the mentality of the team."

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